Senate to Vote on Slimmed-Down Coronavirus Relief Bill This Week

Capitol Hill in Washington, as seen on Monday, July 27, 2020.

Capitol Hill in Washington, as seen on Monday, July 27, 2020. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

 

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the legislation Tuesday and said the Senate will hold a vote on it this week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a “targeted” coronavirus relief proposal Tuesday that he will force a vote on as soon as this week, even as broader negotiations between Democrats and the Trump administration have stalled.

“Today, the Senate Republican majority is introducing a new targeted proposal, focused on some of the very most urgent healthcare, education, and economic issues,” McConnell said in a statement.

The bill includes funding for $300-a-week federal unemployment benefits, $250 billion to provide another round of Paycheck Protection Program payments to businesses, $105 billion for schools, and just under $50 billion for coronavirus testing and vaccine development. The bill is expected to cost $300 billion, with $350 billion in additional costs offset in savings from unspent funds from prior coronavirus relief bills.

Democrats have insisted that far more aid is needed in any sort of relief package and it appeared unlikely Tuesday that the proposal would become law. Democratic leaders criticized Senate Republicans’ proposal, saying it “doesn’t come close to addressing the problems and is headed nowhere.”

“This emaciated bill is only intended to help vulnerable Republican Senators by giving them a ‘check the box’ vote to maintain the appearance that they’re not held hostage by their extreme right-wing that doesn’t want to spend a nickel to help people,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement.

McConnell acknowledged that the bill would not address all of the concerns raised by Republicans or Democrats, but he said the “serious differences between our two parties should not stand in the way of agreeing where we can agree and making law that helps our nation.”

McConnell expected a vote Thursday on the bill, and said the Senate was “going to get the stonewalling of Democratic leaders out from behind closed doors and put this to a vote on the floor.”

Talks between Democrats and Republicans faltered last month as lawmakers were unable to come to any agreement on a fourth coronavirus relief package. Negotiators said last week that lingering disagreements over the amount of money that should be allotted to state and local governments continued to be a roadblock for any broader agreement.

The Democrat-controlled House passed the $3 trillion  HEROES Act in May, which included $915 billion in direct relief for state and local governments. In late July, Senate Republicans introduced a different  $1 trillion aid proposal that did not include new funding for state and local governments. The White House has indicated it supports providing $150 billion for state and local governments in a new bill. The forthcoming Republican bill is not expected to include such funding. 

While McConnell has blasted Democrats for not being willing to compromise on the broader legislation, it was unclear whether he would be able to rally enough Republican support to pass the legislation. Twenty Republican senators have previously indicated they will not vote for any more coronavirus relief.

Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.

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