A new coronavirus stimulus deal is still in the works between Democrats and Republicans, bu they can’t agree on a conclusion.
WASHINGTON – The Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday will take up a $500 billion COVID-19 stimulus package, a bill unlikely to make it out of the Senate as relief negotiations drag on less than two weeks before Election Day.
The bill would give a federal boost to weekly unemployment benefits, send over $100 billion to schools, and allocate funding for testing and vaccine development. Democrats are expected to block the legislation, arguing more money is needed to combat the virus and help Americans.
The bill’s $500 billion price tag is far less than the roughly $1.8 trillion package the White House has offered and the $2.2 trillion package Democrats have backed. The two parties have spent months attempting to find a bipartisan agreement for one last batch of coronavirus stimulus relief before the election.
The back-and-forth talks have been dizzying, with negotiations at times appearing dead only to be met with optimism and more talks between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has repeatedly blamed Democrats for standing in the way of a compromise, told fellow Republicans on Tuesday he urged the White House not to strike a deal with Democrats on a COVID-19 relief package, according to a Senate source who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss closed-door discussions.
The Kentucky Republican explained he was concerned there would not be enough GOP votes to back a larger package and cited worries that voting on such legislation could negatively affect the timing on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation vote to the Supreme Court, which is set for Monday, the source said.
Senate Republicans have stressed their concerns about a large price tag due to the rising national debt and items Democrats have mandated, such as funds for local and state governments.
Instead, they have gotten behind the $500 billion bill. While it is not expected to pass on Wednesday, the legislation will largely serve as a tool for Republicans to outline their priorities. It may also offer a lifeline to struggling GOP incumbent senators who are facing tough reelection campaigns.
Since the coronavirus pandemic started, the United States has recorded more than 8.2 million cases of COVID-19 and over 220,000 deaths.
The Senate voted on a small, standalone bill on Tuesday to reauthorize the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses. The bill would have allowed another round of small-business loans but was blocked by Democrats, who argued for a broader package.
Congress last passed a comprehensive package in March, and many of the package’s provisions have since lapsed. A federal boost to weekly unemployment benefits ran out in July, airline assistance expired in October, and Americans weathering an economic recession eagerly await another round of stimulus checks.
Despite McConnell’s concerns about brokering a deal before the election, Pelosi and Mnuchin have continued daily conversations attempting to find a compromise.
McConnell said Tuesday a “presidentially supported bill” would come to the Senate floor if it passed the House, though lawmakers have grown pessimistic that bipartisan legislation would come forward.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, cast doubt on the possibility of a large aid package, calling the $1.8 trillion offered by the White House a “high number.”
“The clock keeps ticking away, and I’m not optimistic about us doing anything,” he said.
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