Senate fails to advance coronavirus rescue package

Senate fails to advance coronavirus rescue package


The Senate on Sunday failed to clear a key procedural hurdle on a $1.6 trillion emergency rescue package, raising pressure on both parties to try again to reach a deal to address the economic devastation of the coronavirus outbreak.

On a 47-47 vote, the measure fell well short, after Democrats denied Republicans the 60 votes needed to move forward. Among the sticking points remaining are provisions for corporations getting federal assistance, including policy on stock buybacks and executive pay, as well as unemployment insurance and worker protections.

A livid Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) chastised Democrats for voting against moving forward and blamed Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for interfering.

“I want everybody to fully understand if we aren’t able to act tomorrow, it will be because of our colleagues on the other side continuing to dicker when the country expects us to come together and address the problem,” McConnell said on the floor. He added that over the last 48 hours there were bipartisan discussions among “regular members of the Senate, not in the Leadership office, not in the speaker’s office for goodness sakes.”

“She’s the Speaker of the House, not the Speaker of the Senate,” McConnell added. “We were doing just fine until that intervention.”


Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) blamed McConnell for adopting a partisan stance by holding the cloture vote without an agreement, and said the package still has “many problems.”

“The majority leader was well aware of how the vote would go before it happened but he chose to go forward with it anyway even though negotiations are continuing,” Schumer said on the floor. “So who’s playing games? But our caucus is united to deliver a bill that addresses this health and economic crisis quickly and we’re committed to working in a bipartisan way to get it done.”

Drew Hammill, a senior Pelosi aide, chided Republicans: “Rule of thumb from the speaker of the House: don’t call the vote until you have the votes.”

Republicans and the White House insist that a deal has to be reached by Monday or financial markets will further deteriorate, exacerbating an already precarious position for the U.S. economy.

McConnell late Sunday night vowed to hold another procedural vote at 9:45 a.m. Monday morning — “15 minutes after the markets open” — in the absence of an agreement.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced he had become the first senator to test positive for the virus and would be isolating himself. Soon after, Utah GOP Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney said they would be self-quarantining after recently spending time with Paul. And with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) already having quarantined themselves because of possible exposure, GOP leaders are now short five Republican votes.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is weighing his next steps on his presidential campaign, also didn’t vote.

Democrats signaled earlier in the day that the procedural vote could fail.

“It does not appear that there is going to be enough votes to proceed right now,” said moderate Democrat Doug Jones (Ala.). “It would be better for Sen. McConnell to just delay, let folks continue, because if we can get a deal done we get it to the floor and get it passed quickly.”

According to a senior Democratic aide, the party’s concerns with the GOP proposal center on $500 billion for corporations; stock buyback language that can be waived by the Treasury Secretary; only a two-year time frame on executive compensation limits; and no provisions to protect individuals from eviction.


Democrats also object to what they say is an insufficient amount of money for state and local governments and providing only three months of unemployment insurance. Democrats initially asked for $750 billion in state aid, and Republicans have countered with far less.

Schumer and Pelosi are also seeking an additional $200 billion for hospitals and other health-care providers as part of a supplemental government spending bill included in the overall rescue package. The White House had initially sought $48 billion for federal agencies, and Republicans upped that total to $242 billion, including $75 billion for hospitals. Democrats want to further increase it to $450 billion.

Senate GOP leaders circulated text of a nearly 580-page bill to senators’ offices and K Street before the vote.

On Sunday, McConnell met for nearly an hour with Schumer, Pelosi, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Pelosi indicated afterward that House Democrats didn’t support the Senate bill and will forge ahead with their own proposal.

“We’ll be introducing our own bill and hopefully it will be compatible,” Pelosi said after leaving McConnell’s office.

Pelosi pushed a “laundry list” of demands at that meeting, according to a GOP official, including a proposal to wipe off $10,000 from anyone who owns federal student loans, as well as election-security funding. The Republicans countered those issues were not germane to the stimulus debate; Democrats say they have insisted these matters needed to be discussed all along.

“I can tell you what happened — we’re continuing to talk,” Schumer said.

Delaying approval of a rescue package could be politically risky for Democrats as the party seeks to win the Senate back. McConnell and President Donald Trump could then hit them for obstruction in the face of a unprecedented public health emergency and economic slowdown.

But Democrats said they needed to make a stand, and Pelosi’s announcement suggests she is not considering just taking up the Senate bill and passing it through the House on a unanimous consent basis if it were somehow to be passed by the Senate. That also means the House may be forced back into session, even though many lawmakers are concerned about the threat from the coronavirus and the difficulties in reaching Capitol Hill from their home districts.

Schumer and Pelosi have stayed in close touch with Mnuchin throughout the negotiations. Pelosi flew back to Washington on Saturday.

While outstanding issues remain, Democrats are expected to get a win with $250 billion allocated to unemployment insurance. In addition, billions are expected to go to hospitals to address the influx of patients due to the pandemic. Schumer has called for a “Marshall Plan” for hospitals.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) also reached an agreement in principle Saturday evening with Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), on the package’s small business provisions. The final deal on small businesses would amount to $350 billion, covering 58 million American workers and more than 30 million small businesses, Rubio tweeted Saturday.

Democrats have also pushed for expanded paid leave provisions. But Republicans are showing little interest, with GOP aides noting the House-passed second aid package already included provisions to expand paid sick leave.

Republicans are also pushing for $250 billion in direct cash payments to workers. Under the original GOP proposal, individuals and families would receive $1,200 and $2,400 in direct cash payments, depending on their income level. Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) have raised concerns that the original language of the provision penalizes lower-income Americans who do not have a taxable income. But Republican aides say the issue will be resolved in the final text.

Heather Caygle and Victoria Guida contributed to this story.

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