The Senate failed Thursday to advance a Republican coronavirus stimulus plan, the latest blow to stalled efforts to pass another package to mitigate the pandemic’s economic damage.
The measure fell short of the 60 votes needed on a procedural step to move toward passage. All Democrats present, and one Republican — Rand Paul of Kentucky — opposed it in a 52-47 vote. The nearly unanimous vote for the GOP followed weeks of disagreements within the Republican caucus about whether to pass any more aid at all.
The legislation would have reinstated enhanced federal unemployment insurance at a rate of $300 per week, half of the $600 weekly payment that expired at the end of July. It also would have authorized new small business loans and put money toward schools and into Covid-19 testing, treatment and vaccines.
The measure did not include a second $1,200 direct payment to individuals. It also lacked new relief for cash-strapped state and local governments or money for rental and mortgage assistance and food aid — all priorities for Democrats.
“It is beyond insufficient. It is completely inadequate,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said of the GOP plan earlier Thursday.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell R heads toward the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., the United States, on Sept. 8, 2020.
Ting Shen | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., brought the measure to the Senate floor this week as efforts by the Trump administration and Democratic leaders to strike a bipartisan relief agreement remained stalled. He aimed not only to show that Republicans, and particularly vulnerable GOP senators running for reelection this year, were taking action to fight the pandemic, but also to put pressure on Democrats ahead of Election Day.
“They can tell American families they care more about politics than helping them,” McConnell said of Democratic senators who oppose the bill.
Congress has failed to pass a fifth coronavirus aid package even as the outbreak infects tens of thousands of Americans per day and economic pain felt by millions of jobless people sharpens. Lifelines including the jobless benefits, a federal moratorium on evictions and the window to apply for Paycheck Protection Program small business loans have all lapsed.
While President Donald Trump has taken unilateral steps to extend temporary unemployment aid to some Americans and limit evictions for a few months, only Congress can pass comprehensive relief because it controls federal spending.
Doubts have grown about lawmakers’ ability to approve any more stimulus during the heated final weeks before the 2020 election. Even so, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Thursday she is hopeful Congress can pass another bill before the Nov. 3 election.
Asked Wednesday about whether another relief bill would come together, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin responded, “I don’t know.”
“We’ll see. I hope there is. It’s important to a lot of people out there,” the top Trump administration negotiator in aid talks said.
As Republicans try to hold on to their 53-47 Senate majority in November, every GOP incumbent running this year supported the aid package. The most vulnerable Senate Democrat, Doug Jones of Alabama, opposed it.