WASHINGTON, D.C. (KELO) — South Dakota’s senior Senator is known for his calm demeanor, but on Monday, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) expressed frustration over partisan gridlock on a massive economic aid package related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“(The speech was) really a genuine frustration grounded in what I see happening across South Dakota and across the country,” Thune said. “That is just tremendous disruption.”
The top-ranking Republican said, from small businesses to social distancing, fears over health and economics are starting to take a toll on people’s lives.
“We just don’t have the luxury of time to sit around here and debate things that are totally unrelated to the crisis,” Thune said. “That’s what the Democrats had interjected into the discussion were a lot of unrelated issues, issues that Congress can deal with another time, but have nothing to do with the crisis at hand.”
What Thune is referring to is a debate from Democrats over a nearly $2 trillion aid package designed to help Americans in the form of checks and funding state unemployment, company loans and more money for healthcare – just to name a few of the sources.
Democrats want less money to corporations – like the airlines, and instead focus on more labor protections and different assurances from corporations.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi issued her own proposal on Monday which ended up hurting the first shot at getting an aid package passed in the Senate.
On Tuesday morning, a more optimistic tone came from Democratic leaders.
“I don’t see any issue that can’t be overcome within the next few hours,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (N-NY) said. “Last night I thought we were on the five-yard line. Now we’re on the two.”
Thune agreed. In an interview with KELOLAND News, he believes the Senate will pass a deal sometime on Tuesday.
“Well, I know, I hope this interview is out of date for, for the sake of the country, Michael,” Thune said. “But I think that most likely.”
After the negotiators – officials from the Donald Trump administration and Schumer – reach a deal, Thune said it will then go to the Senate and House caucuses.
“I think for most of our members if it doesn’t deviate too far from what we’ve been discussing, I don’t think we’ll have any problems with our folks getting them to support it because most of our members, we’re pretty comfortable with, what was in the bill previously,” Thune said referring to the Republican caucus.
If Democrats agree – the next step is writing up the bill, a lengthy process, but one that has already started.
“They’re in the process of writing it up already, which takes a while, but you’ve got to execute on the vote and getting all the paperwork done and going through the procedural hurdles, which hopefully, again, won’t be a problem,” Thune said.
If the Senate votes to pass, which he believed could happen Tuesday afternoon or evening, then it heads across the Capitol to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Thune said Pelosi has indicated if she agreed with the final bill, that chamber would do the vote by unanimous consent, a much faster way to push through legislation. Then, it will go to Trump’s desk.
“The American people have to get their lives at least somewhat back to normal, or at least to have some confidence that there will be normalcy at some point in the future,” Thune said.
There’s another need for urgency: already one member of his own body has tested positive for COVID-19, Sen. Rand Paul.
Thune said he didn’t have direct contact with the Senator, but said it underscores a need to move quickly, even as other members of Congress self-quarantine who were near Sen. Paul.
“I talked to my physician in South Dakota about those interactions and, obviously we want to take full precautions, but most of us here, I think right now, realize that we’ve got to get this done,” Thune said.
You can watch our full interview with Thune in the player above.
Later on KELOLAND.com, we’ll look at how Congress could function if so many members have to quarantine or test positive.
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