Senate Democrats successfully blocked passage today of a scaled-down Republican COVID-19 relief bill that they said did not go far enough to address the economic and public health problems caused by the pandemic.
With talks between the White House and Democratic leaders still at an impasse, next steps on a negotiated bill remain unclear. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin mused this week that Congress might punt on another COVID-19 relief bill and instead focus on a clean continuing resolution to keep the federal government funded past Sept. 30.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) attempted to build as much GOP support as possible for a $500 billion bill that included new money for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and education, $300 weekly enhanced unemployment benefits, and liability protections for schools, businesses, nonprofits and health care providers. Though the bill stood little chance of passing, it’s worth noting that the bill would have also expanded access to the PPP for 501(c)(6) organizations – a provision that ASAE and others have urged Congress to prioritize for months.
Before the failed vote, McConnell cast Democrats as obstructionists who insist on massive spending for their own partisan priorities. “We’re going to vote on policy,” McConnell said from the Senate floor. “Today every senator will either say they want to send families the relief we can agree to or they can send families nothing. Nothing.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the vote was a “pointless” exercise, entirely crafted by Republican legislators. The bill did not include a second round of stimulus checks for individuals, something the White House has said it would support. It also excluded any new money for cities and states, which is a top Democratic priority.
Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have criticized McConnell and the White House for waiting months to restart negotiations after the House passed a sweeping $3.4 trillion COVID-19 relief package in May. Pelosi said Republicans need to get serious about the country’s needs.
“Let’s not have a skinny bill when we have a massive problem,” Pelosi said at a news conference today.