The Senate on Monday failed to move ahead with a massive coronavirus stimulus package aimed at helping the economy amid for the second time in two short days due to Democrats blocking the bill in an effort to include “an ideological wish list.”
The vote was 49-46, falling short of the 60 votes needed to advance. Five Republican senators decided to self-quarantine, with one senator — Rand Paul (R-KY) announced that he tested positive for the coronavirus.
Democrat Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama broke with the party to vote in support of the measure. He voted “no” in the first procedural vote Sunday evening.
The draft legislation aims to flood the economy with money, from individuals to small businesses to large industries amid a wave of layoffs. It would direct payments of up to $1,200 per person and a $500 payments for each child. The payments would be phased out for individuals who earn more than $75,000. Central to the package is as much as $350 billion for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home, and billions in loans to airlines and other industries.
Senate leaders and the Trump administration officials have been in around-the-clock meetings over the past four days to try to close an agreement. Despite the long weekend negotiations, Senate lawmakers missed their own deadline of wrapping up legislation before the end of the weekend.
The package first failed Sunday evening in part mostly from Democratic opposition. They argued arguing the Senate stimulus bill had nine “major problems” as drafted and the Republican proposal does not do enough to prioritize workers over corporations.
Ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) went to the floor to criticize Democrats of the “Democratic wish list” he said was preventing an agreement, including tax credits for solar energy and wind energy provisions to force employers to give “special new treatment for big labor,” and “new emissions standards” for airlines.
“The markets are tanking once again because this body can’t get its act together and the only reason it can’t get its act together is right over here on the other side of the aisle,” McConnell said. “Tax credits for solar energy and wind energy. Provisions to force employers to give special new treatment to Big Labor. And listen to this — new emissions standards for the airlines.”
He added, “Are you kidding me? This is the moment to debate new regulations that have nothing whatsoever to do whatsoever with this crisis? That’s what they’re up to over there. The American people need to know it. Democrats won’t let us fund hospitals or save small businesses unless they get to dust off the Green New Deal. They ought to be embarrassed. This is not a juicy political opportunity, this is a national emergency.”
The second failed vote comes as the Senate floor descended into an uproar as members from both parties traded barbs over what needed to be done during the debate. Democrats complained the $1 trillion package did not go far enough to provide health care and unemployment aid for Americans and doesn’t include much transparency into which businesses could receive hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency loans. Republicans, on the other hand accused Democrats of playing partisan politics and using the Coronavirus crisis as a leverage to jam into the bill political “wish list” items such as the green new deal and climate change.
Summing the impasse on the Senate floor was Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-LA) who said: “This country was founded by geniuses but it’s being run by a bunch of idiots.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) responded to McConnell criticism, stating the bill includes a “large corporate bailouts with almost no strings attached.”
“Maybe the majority leader thinks it’s unfair to ask protections for workers and labor to companies that are getting hundreds of billions of dollars,” Schumer said. “We think it’s very fair to ask for those. Those are not extraneous issues. That is a wish list for workers, nobody else.”
After the vote, McConnell warned that the Senate might not be able to pass a bill until Friday or Saturday, blasting Democrats for “mindless obstruction.”
“While the public is waiting for us to act, while people losing their jobs, losing their income and shutting down the economy which we’ve had to do to deal with this public health crisis, they’re fiddling around with Senate procedure that could, if one senator objected, take us all the way to the end of the week to solve this problem,” McConnell said in an anger tone. “The American people have had just enough of this nonsense. They wonder where we are. They’re looking to us to solve this problem!”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi returned to Washington, D.C. from recess on Monday said House Democrats would begin rolling out their own bill this afternoon that will rival the Senate bill. She then accused Senate Republicans of putting corporations first in their proposed legislation.
“The Senate Republicans’ bill, as presented, put corporations first, not workers and families,” Pelosi said in a statement Monday. “Today, House Democrats will unveil a bill that takes responsibility for the health, wages and well-being of America’s workers: the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act.”
With more than 35,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, the impacts of the crisis continues to grow worse. The Dow Jones industrial average has lost more than 10,000 points in six weeks, and several million Americans have already lost their jobs as the economy contracts in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.