WASHINGTON — Democrats in the U.S. Senate on Sunday blocked legislation that would pump well over $1 trillion into the American economy on programs to help companies losing business during the coronavirus outbreak and unemployed workers.
The measure faltered after it failed to get the necessary 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to clear a procedural hurdle after days of negotiations. The vote came in at 47-47.
The bill is Congress’ third effort to blunt the economic toll of a disease that has killed at least 400 people in the United States and sickened more than 33,000, leading governors to order nearly a third of the nation’s population to stay at home and putting much business activity on hold.
The measure envisages financial aid for regular Americans, small businesses and critically affected industries, including airlines.
Democrats had raised objections to the Senate bill throughout the day, with the Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, saying it had “many, many problems” like benefiting corporate interests and did not provide enough aid to hospitals, healthcare workers, cities, and states. They pointed to a lack of restrictions on executive pay that would last only two years and weak bans on corporate stock buy-backs, according to Fox News.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delayed a scheduled 3 p.m. vote to continue negotiations with Democrats over points of difference. However, by the 6 p.m. vote, the Senate was still divided.
“Unfortunately, the legislation has not improved enough in the past three hours,” Schumer said.
McConnell after the failed vote said he would force another count.
“The American people are watching this spectacle,” he said. “I’m told the futures market is down 5 percent. I’m also told that’s when trading stops. So the notion that we have time to play games here with the American economy and the American people is utterly absurd.
“The American people expect us to act tomorrow, and 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 dither when the country expects us to come together and address this problem.”
Three GOP senators were absent for the vote after Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) confirmed Sunday morning that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and would be in self-quarantine. Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) were also in self-quarantine during the vote as part of their own precautionary measures.
The failure of the measure to move forward sends Democrats and Republicans back to the negotiating table. The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said earlier on Sunday that Democrats in that chamber will begin crafting an alternative to the Senate bill.
By Rick Cowan and Alexandra Alper. Epoch Times staff contributed to this article.