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GOP Sen. Rick Scott Says Failing To Compromise On Relief Bill ‘Would Be A Mistake’

Sen. Rick Scott. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
Sen. Rick Scott. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

The Senate adjourned for the weekend as negotiations between Democrats and the White House on a fifth relief bill have stalled. Senate Republicans have largely failed to rally around the $1 trillion GOP plan, and Democrats say it doesn’t go far enough compared to their $3 trillion proposal.

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott says the Senate shouldn’t have adjourned on Thursday with negotiations still stalled. He criticized both the funding for a new FBI building included in the Republican bill and additional money for the National Endowment for the Arts in the proposal House Democrats put forward several months ago.

“If you stop and think, what we ought to be doing is focus on the people that are hurting, the people that have lost their jobs, our small businesses struggling to stay in business or reopen,” he says. “We’re borrowing an unprecedented amount of money, and we’re never going to be able to pay for this if we don’t get this economy reopened again.”

Scott also said that liability protections for businesses, schools and hospitals, a priority of Senate Republicans, must be included in the final bill. According to The Washington Post, the White House has signaled that it would accept a deal with Democrats that doesn’t include those protections.

Interview Highlights

On whether the Senate should have adjourned on Thursday

“They shouldn’t. … I was disappointed yesterday. We had two opportunities to work on unemployment. Martha McSally, the [Republican] senator from Arizona, had a proposal to extend it for a week while we negotiate, and [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer came down, blocked that. And then [Republican Sen.] Ron Johnson had a proposal that would’ve extended it through the end of the year at a lower amount, and again Chuck Schumer came down to the Senate floor and blocked that.

“You know one thing about being in Congress, you have to figure out how to work well with others, and right now this place does not work. … We’ve been so inefficient with the dollars that we’ve spent. The new proposal, one side wants three trillion, the other side starting at a trillion, somebody’s gotta pay for this.”

On whether Congress should be spending $1 trillion or more on the economy

“What we ought to do is we ought to spend the dollars it takes to do the things that we care about. Like, make sure we get a vaccine. Make sure we get the testing, and you know we’re behind in testing again. Make sure that we help the unemployed. Make sure that we help our small businesses stay in business and reopen.

“Should we be spending money for the National Endowment for the Arts? Should we be spending money for a new FBI building or the Kennedy Center? No, we shouldn’t be spending money like that. We’re borrowing an unprecedented amount of money, and we’re never going to be able to pay for this if we don’t get this economy reopened again.”

On aid for states facing budget holes and Republican refusal to include more funding for state and local budgets

“I don’t believe we ought to be bailing out prior bad budgets, I don’t believe we should use the coronavirus as a reason to pay for Illinois or California or New Jersey’s pension plans that are unfunded.

“So here’s what I’ve done. First off, we paid for already, we gave the states actually over $500 billion and access to another $500 billion in loans. And what I’ve asked is the states, tell us how you’ve used that money, so we can figure out what we should be doing. Less than 10 governors responded. But they want more money. They just want us to hand them a blank check that they can do anything with. We shouldn’t be using your taxpayer money to do that.”

On whether there could be no bill

“That would be a mistake, if nothing happens. Look I’m optimistic. … We’ll be back on Monday, and I hope that this weekend everybody will come back with a renewed focus to say, how do we help those who’ve lost their jobs. Most important thing we can do, how do we help them? Let’s focus on the virus, focus on the unemployed, focus on reopening the economy.”

On whether he’d support a bill without liability protections

“I think that’d be a mistake. I think it’ll hurt reopening our economy. You know businesses want to do the right thing, and they shouldn’t be sued. … We’ve got to make sure that we don’t put our businesses, our schools, our hospitals in a position where they can’t provide the services they provide because they’re worried about getting sued. It has to be in there.”

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

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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