By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
While Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto sees her Washington D.C. colleagues argue over another stimulus bill, she proposes senators should put together a package of proposals many already agree on, and pass that, before they get back to the debate about the more-difficult stimulus issues.
“At least in areas where there is bipartisan support, we should be putting it in a package and sending it to the floor for a vote,” she said Friday on Nevada Newsmakers.
One example Cortez Masto said should be in a “quick” stimulus package is the STEP Act she is sponsoring, she told host Sam Shad.
The bill would help Nevada’s hospitality industry by providing federal grants to tourism and event venues to offset the impacts of the COVID crisis. It has the support of former Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and the co-sponsorship of Republican Sens. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Roy Blunt of Missouri and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
“It is something that we have already introduced,” Cortez Masto said. “It has bipartisan support, so why is that not put in the next stimulus package? We should be looking at those areas where there is already bipartisan support and incorporating those into a stimulus package. It is not happening right now.”
She blames Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the lack of any new stimulus package.
“What we see happening now is unfortunately because Mitch McConnell is the majority leader and controls what goes on in the floor of the senate,” Cortez Masto said.
“The most recent legislation that anyone is talking about is, the ‘skinny’ (stimulus) package,” she said, referring to a less expensive stimulus package McConnell backed.
“What happened there is that piece of legislation didn’t even go through a committee, so that we could all be aware of what it was, what was in it or how to make it transparent for the public,” Cortez Masto said.
“What he did was he actually put that legislation together behind closed doors with his caucus — and I’m not even sure all the caucus members saw it,” she said. “But once he had it where he wanted it, he brought it to the floor of the senate and dropped it for all of us to vote before we had a chance to even see it, or negotiate around it, or even be involved with amendments.”
The measured failed as every Democrat, including Cortez Masto, opposed the bill. It was defeated in a procedural vote, 52-47 with Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky also opposing.
The bill would have cut the weekly federal insurance unemployment benefit — $600 in the first stimulus bill — to $300. It also left out another round of $1,200 payment to individuals.
“I didn’t support it because of various reasons … no money for hospitality and tourism, no money for state and local government where it is necessary, no money for child nutrition, no money for broadband, for funding in our rural communities, for health care and hospitals.”
“There was so much left behind,” Cortez Masto said. “I don’t know how anybody could support it, knowing that if you have just come home from your state, there are many people who are still suffering. We have to come together in a bipartisan way to solve this problem.”
Based on previous proposals, the parameters of the debate are already set, Cortez Masto said. Some Republicans won’t go higher than $1 trillion while some Democrats want the next stimulus to be as high as $3 trillion.
“So it is going to be somewhere in between,” she said. “That’s what I’m thinking. That is why the negotiations should take place. Here are the parameters for the dollars, so let’s figure out what still needs to be done and how much in that negotiation. This is part of what we should be doing, (finding) compromise of what that dollar figure looks like.”