Senate Turns Down Tightened Stimulus Package From Republicans

A crossing guard stops traffic for elementary school children to make their way across the street after school let out during a rain storm in Richardson, Texas, on Wednesday. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Lawmakers voted down an additional coronavirus relief Thursday as Senate Democrats and Republicans failed to compromise on the package’s latest haircut.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had touted the bill as a targeted measure focused on “urgent health care, education and economic issues” Tuesday when senators returned from their August recess.

The legislation needed a 60-vote majority to advance without debate or cloture, and it failed 52-47 early this afternoon.

Democrats like Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill and funding for it was emaciated and “completely inadequate.”

Calling the measure distinctly partisan, Schumer contended that it contained poison pills long challenged by Democrats.

“How about the broad immunity provisions from the day he announced them he knew it wouldn’t get Democratic support?” Schumer said. “How about the Betsy DeVos school choice plan that would funnel money into private schools while she neglected the real needs of our public schools? Of course, Democrats would oppose that.”

Democrats and Republicans from both chambers have passed blame for months over who is at fault for failing to compromise to fund a coronavirus relief package. In May the House passed the $3 billion Heroes Act, which would send $500 billion to states and $375 billion to local governments to help abate financial effects of the pandemic.

It would also extend weekly $600 unemployment benefits, recharge food stamp and small business grant programs with an additional $10 billion each, and send most Americans another $1,200.

Republicans introduced a $1 trillion bill in July, which would have cut unemployment benefits by $300 per week for jobless Americans and included $1.75 million for the construction of a new FBI headquarters.

Other reductions were made to funding for American schools, Republicans cutting $195 billion from the House’s original proposal — offering money only to schools that fully reopened.

McConnell said Thursday it was the fault of Democratic leaders, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for politically spinning relief negotiations. Americans would see through Thursday’s vote “exactly who has their backs,” he said.

“They can keep trying to make this an abstract argument over leverage, or the infinite set of things that aren’t in this bill, or whether the White House chief of staff has been polite to them, or whatever excuse they’ll settle on today,” McConnell said. “But none of that is what we vote on. We vote on policy.” 

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin said if McConnell wanted to foster bipartisanship in negotiating the Covid-19 relief bill, he should be physically present during them. But Durbin said McConnell “refuses to enter the room” during the most-recent summits between Congressional leaders.

For that reason, he said, Thursday’s bill was a “one-sided offering” that should have been negotiated.

“Is there any money in there to protect these families from being evicted? No,” Durbin said. “Wait a minute, how about food stamps and SNAP? Many of these families are struggling to put food on the table — any help in this bill for them? No. … Time and again what this senator from Kentucky has given us is just an effort to say we tried.”

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