Senate Democrats on Sept. 10 blocked a Republican bill that would have provided federal funding for pandemic relief.
The bill, introduced Sept. 8 by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), would provide more small-business loans, liability protections for businesses, added unemployment benefits of $300 per week, and funds to reopen schools. It would be worth about $500 billion, far less than the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act that was passed by the Democrat-controlled House in May.
The vote was 52–47, failing to reach a threshold to spark debate on the Senate floor. No Democratic senator was willing to vote in favor of the measure, while nearly all Republicans voted in favor of it. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a frequent critic of the ballooning federal debt, was the lone Republican to vote against the bill.
“Once again, Democrats are objecting, and it’s the same old song—the Republicans’ bill doesn’t spend enough,” Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said ahead of the vote on Sept. 10.
McConnell and his counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), criticized each other on the floor ahead of the vote.
“Senators who share the Democratic leader’s toxic attitude, who think the real enemy are their political opponents, I assume will follow his lead and vote no," he said, adding that those elected officials "can tell American families they care more about politics than helping them."
Schumer said the bill has "poison pills" and is "pointless."
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said Democrats need to back the bill because small businesses need loans. Those businesses, she said, "have been feeling, just a kick in the gut on a daily basis in my state.”
The bill comes after the White House met with Democratic lawmakers on a daily basis last month before talks stalled. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Schumer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) remain far apart on the price tag of the bill as well as issues such as unemployment benefits and how much funding state and local governments should get.
Pelosi rejected a claim this week from the GOP that it's necessary to pass a slimmed-down deal.
“No, it isn’t," she said. "I hear it a lot. And clearly it springs from all the good intentions we all have to help people as soon as we can. [But] it does nothing."