What’s the story?
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced on Tuesday that Republicans are going to bring a “targeted” coronavirus (COVID-19) relief bill to the floor for a vote this week. The news comes amid a months-long impasse over additional coronavirus relief.
- McConnell said in a statement that the bill will be “focused on some of the very most urgent healthcare, education, and economic issues,” and that while it doesn’t include every idea either party likes, those differences “should not stand in the way of agreeing where we can agree and making law that helps our nation.” He also urged Democrats to work with Republicans on a relief bill that stands a chance of becoming law:
“Last month, more than 100 House Democrats publicly asked Speaker Pelosi to stop stonewalling and let them vote on targeted COVID-19 relief. She ignored them, just like her piecemeal postal legislation ignored American families. I will make sure every Senate Democrat who has said they’d like to reach an agreement gets the opportunity to walk the walk. Working families must not suffer more than necessary because Democrat leaders think citizens’ pain may help their political fortunes.”
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) countered in a statement that the Republican bill will not be sufficient to get support from Democrats:
“If anyone doubts McConnell’s true intent is anything but political, just look at the bill. This proposal is laden with poison pills Republicans know Democrats would never support. Instead of helping state and local workers facing layoffs, feeding hungry families, providing adequate funding for testing and treatment to fight the pandemic, helping renters keep the roof over the heads, stopping the dismantling of the U.S. Postal system and making sure American can cast their ballots safely in fair elections this November, this emaciated bill is only intended to help vulnerable Republican Senators by giving them a ‘check the box’ vote to maintain the appearance that they’re not held hostage by their extreme right-wing that doesn’t want to spend a nickel to help people.”
What’s in the bill?
- Called the Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act, the bill is similar to the “skinny” relief package Republicans previously discussed and has a projected price tag of about $300 billion, which would be partially offset through the rescission of previously appropriated funds that haven’t been spent.
- It would provide a $300 federal enhancement of unemployment benefits through December 27th, plus a second round of loans in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses with 300 or fewer employees who demonstrate a 35% reduction in gross revenue in 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019.
- The bill would also provide liability protections for businesses, healthcare providers, and schools from lawsuits related to the COVID-19 pandemic as long as they make reasonable efforts to comply with government standards and guidance and don’t engage in gross negligence or willful misconduct.
- The bill would also provide $20 billion in farm aid, $15 billion for childcare grants, and $500 million for fisheries. A total of $10 billion would also be provided to the U.S. Postal Service through the conversion of a loan into a grant.
What’s next for the bill?
- McConnell is expected to file a cloture motion on the motion to proceed on Tuesday, which will allow for what is essentially a procedural vote on starting debate to occur later in the week.
- If there is unanimous consent from senators, it could occur as early as Wednesday, otherwise the motion will spend Wednesday “ripening” before a vote can occur Thursday.
- A cloture motion is known as the “legislative filibuster” because it requires a 60 vote threshold to succeed, which means that 41 senators can effectively vote to block debate on the legislation.
- For debate on the relief package to continue, Democrats will need to support Republicans on the cloture vote. Reportedly, 51 of the Senate’s 53 Republicans support the package, so at least nine votes from Democrats would be needed if that’s the case.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / jarino47)
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