Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Tuesday that the most recent coronavirus relief package put forward by Senate Republicans on Monday reinforced “corporate benefits” — including those that could benefit President Donald Trump’s hotel business.
Schumer told CBS’ Anthony Mason in an interview Tuesday that the bill was “stingy” in that it provided “no money for food stamps but a deduction for a three martini lunch for a big businessman.”
Schumer also slammed the proposal as “woefully inadequate” in meeting needs to help schools reopen, and criticized cuts to the enhanced unemployment benefits.
While many of the GOP’s efforts to skimp on benefits to unemployed workers were anticipated far before the proposal was unveiled, Schumer expressed his surprise Monday at finding a provision for a new D.C. FBI headquarters buried in the GOP proposal.
In calling for a new facility in downtown Washington, D.C., the White House is pushing to sidestep a plan to construct the FBI headquarters in the suburbs that was proposed before Trump took office, The Washington Post reported.
Last Thursday, a reporter asked Trump during a press briefing whether a report from The Post that a line item for a new FBI building was one of the things holding up the bill.
The President responded to the question by insisting that a new building was needed, adding that he wants the FBI to remain where it is, saying that despite the consideration of other locations “the site they have now is better.” The President described a brand new building with a running track on the roof “because FBI people like to work out a lot,” all along maintaining that “there’s nothing better” than where the facility is currently located.
Schumer, together with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), said on Monday that the request for $1.75 billion to rebuilt the FBI headquarters was a self-serving maneuver on the part of Trump.
The FBI headquarters, which currently sits on Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Washington, is just a stone’s throw away from Trump’s hotel. Schumer and Pelosi have echoed the concerns of those who say that the White House’s insistence on plan to keep it there is a move that puts money in Trump’s pockets, since any consideration of its relocation would leave open a prime piece of real estate that could be occupied by a new hotel — creating competition to the nearby Trump International Hotel.
Schumer hammered down on that point Tuesday, condemning the move to CBS by saying the budget for the FBI building was really about ensuring that “no new competing hotel can come in.”
In 2018, the Wall Street Journal uncovered documents in the controversy that even demonstrated that the White House “was aware” that building a new facility on the same plot “would cost more than a competing proposal to relocate to the suburbs.”
Some Senate Republicans have also suggested that earmarking money for a new FBI building is a distraction from actual pandemic relief.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who had already taken some heat for the delayed relief bill, told reporters during a press conference Monday that he was not aware the money for the FBI headquarters was included.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a staunch ally of the President’s, even said Tuesday he would support removing the provision, adding that didn’t know why it was in the package in the first place. “That makes no sense to me,” Graham said.