Cornyn and Cruz could improve the coronavirus relief bill. Don’t bet on it.

by | Mar 16, 2020 | Coronavirus, Policy

Over the weekend, House lawmakers passed a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill that serves as the first good step to patching up the president’s delayed reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation includes paid sick leave for some workers, more funding for food assistance and Medicaid, as well as free testing with some conditions.

Unfortunately, the legislation leaves out a large share of the American workforce from having paid sick because it exempts businesses with more than 500 employees as well as fewer than 50. That means the coronavirus relief bill only guarantees sick leave to about 20 percent of workers, according to the New York Times.

One CNN source familiar with negotiations over the bill said paid sick leave for all workers was a “nonstarter” for Republicans, leading to many Americans being cut out of the bill.

As the bill heads to the Senate, both Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have a real chance to push themselves and their colleagues into making sure the legislation covers all Texans during the pandemic. It’s the least they could do considering both lawmakers enjoy paid sick leave themselves and 40 percent of Texas workers don’t.  

But like the president and their fellow Republicans in the House, it’s unlikely both Texas Senators will budge. When asked recently about House Democrat proposals like paid sick leave and unemployment insurance by the House Chronicle, Cruz dismissed the solutions as “wage controls and price controls and socialism.”

Cornyn, facing a tough re-election in 2020, also appears unfazed. 

“I don’t think we ought to be stampeded into doing something that we wouldn’t otherwise think is a good idea,” Cornyn said last week as the House debated the details of the coronavirus relief bill, adding that the legislation seemed like a way to “score political points.”

If anything, it’s very possible the negotiated bipartisan bill exiting the House will only be gutted by the Republican-controlled Senate, especially with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling many of the provisions in the bill, including paid sick leave, an “ideological wish list.”

That presents a serious public health risk for the U.S., which is currently on track to meet and exceed the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in countries considered the epicenter of the pandemic, like Iran and Italy.

In Texas, the number of confirmed cases trickled upward to 56, roughly 20 more than the number on Friday when Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration over the outbreak.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at

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