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Democratic Rep. James Clyburn: GOP Pandemic Relief Proposal Is 'Egregious'

South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn has endorsed Joe Biden. (Alvin C. Jacobs for Here & Now)
South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn has endorsed Joe Biden. (Alvin C. Jacobs for Here & Now)
This article is more than 2 years old.

As Democrats, Republicans and the White House try to negotiate a fifth pandemic relief bill, the third-highest ranking House Democrat calls the Republican proposal “egregious” and says on some issues, “maybe there should not be a compromise.”

Republicans unveiled their proposed relief package on Monday, after internal strife, to the tune of about $1 trillion, compared to some $3 trillion that Democrats want to spend. Both political parties want to send out a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks but remain far apart on most other sticking points.

House Democratic Whip James Clyburn says the GOP proposal to lower weekly pandemic unemployment payments to $200 — after the $600 weekly bump ends on July 31 — “should be” a deal breaker for Democrats.

He also opposed the Republicans’ decision not to increase funding for hard-hit state and local governments and criticized add-ons to the GOP proposal, such as several billion for defense spending and funding for a new FBI building.

“Ask the American people to take a look at their proposals versus ours,” Clyburn says. “It is a much better deal, it seems to me, than this big giveaway given to defense contractors. We don't need new defense programs. We'll be putting in all of this money for [F-35 combat aircrafts]. … That's only to give some contractors federal welfare.”

Republicans have similarly criticized the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion relief bill passed by the Democratic-led House in May, for allocating money for issues they say aren’t directly related to the coronavirus. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has called the Democrats’ proposal a “socialist manifesto.”

Clyburn says that if the two sides fail to reach a compromise, there may be a short-term extension of increased unemployment benefits.

Interview Highlights 

On whether the Republican wish to decrease unemployment payments is a deal breaker

“Well, it should be. The fact of the matter is, while they are doing that, they are putting in this bill a new tax deduction for business meals. That to me, demonstrates the difference in us and them. We are trying to take care of people who are going to work everyday. Essential workers trying to keep this economy going, trying to keep their families stabilized, while [Republicans] are putting in this bill a new tax deduction for business meals. That is an incredible demonstration of exactly who and what they are.”

On how to find compromise on more funding for state and local governments, which Democrats want but Republicans opted not to include in their proposal

“I don't know how we if we find compromise, maybe there should not be a compromise. It seems to me that for us to approve a plan that we know will render a lot of state governments, a lot of local governments, push them into bankruptcy, laying off scores of people who depended upon these places or these entities they use for what little income that they have coming in – and put in $2 billion in here to construct a new FBI building. What is that all about? Except that the new FBI building they want to construct is about two or three blocks from Trump's hotel. This is the most egregious stuff I've ever seen. And I think that what we need to do going forward is to keep these issues before the American public and they all begin to see exactly what it is we’re fighting against up here.”

On the possibility of no bill passing Congress

“That is a possibility. But it seems to me that if we are going to cram down the American people's throats a big giveaway for business people to get a meal on their dime, that may be something we need to highlight.”

On whether a short-term extension of extra unemployment benefits is possible

“Yes, I do think so. I would suspect that having a short-term agreement will be better than not having anything at all. But having a long-term agreement that does not take care of [our constituents] and enhances the fortunes of corporate business people, that, to me, is a worse position to be in.”

On President Trump saying he will not go to memorial services for the late Rep. John Lewis

“Well, I think that demonstrates once again, the smallness of this guy. John Lewis' life was darn near taken away from him on the Edmund Pettus Bridge at a time when only 2% of the African-Americans in Alabama were registered to vote. He was trying to get the vote for Black people in Alabama and was met by a mob of police officers. This president is demonstrating once again with sending storm troopers into Portland and other cities – he is doing the same thing today that John Lewis fought against in Selma, Alabama.

“And many of us stood with John. John and I were in SNICC together. We were founding members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and we did so because we wanted the right to vote. We want to get off the back of busses. We wanted to get rid of the Confederacy. This guy is sending storm troopers into city after city now, trying to reinstate the Confederacy. That is a contrast. So his not showing up to give honor to John Lewis is very understandable to me. John stood for everything [President Trump] does not stand for and against everything that he does stand for.”

Francesca Paris produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku Ray. Paris also adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on July 28, 2020.


Jeremy Hobson Former Co-Host, Here & Now
Before coming to WBUR to co-host Here & Now, Jeremy Hobson hosted the Marketplace Morning Report, a daily business news program with an audience of more than six million.



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