CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Congress is not scheduled to have any votes until September, leaving top congressional leaders and the Trump administration continuing to negotiate a fifth coronavirus relief measure.
Discussions fell apart last week before legislators left for the August recess. President Donald Trump on Saturday signed executive actions related to the pandemic, including an extension of supplemental unemployment benefits.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said on Tuesday’s “MetroNews Talkline” lawmakers should have stayed in Washington, D.C. until a deal was reached.
“It’s embarrassing that the leadership is basically taking a position of politics versus the position of the need of the people,” he said. “Both sides are guilty.”
Trump’s actions included signing a directive asking the U.S. Department of Treasury to defer payroll taxes through the rest of the year as well as a $400 weekly unemployment supplement, in which states have to cover 25% of costs. The addition is less than the $600 which expired last month.
Manchin said he was not surprised by the president’s actions.
“I knew that he was going in that direction. If they’re playing politics, they played right into his hand,” Manchin said. “On the other hand, he has to understand the Constitution doesn’t allow him to do that.”
The money for the supplemental unemployment payments will come from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, a $79 billion account.
“We’re in the midst of a hurricane season,” Manchin said. “It will be wiped out and the coverage will be bare.”
Manchin said a possible next package needs to address Americans’ concerns, including providing funding for education and health care efforts related to the pandemic.
“Really, what we should be doing is looking at what is going to get us through this pandemic,” he said. “We know that we’re probably going to be in a crisis until January until they have a commercial vaccine distributed through this country. If that’s the case, what do we need for education? What do you need for health?”
Both congressional chambers are expected to be back in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 8, but the House of Representatives does not have any votes scheduled until the evening of Sept. 14.