Washington — The Senate failed to advance a slimmed-down coronavirus relief bill in a procedural vote on Thursday, as Republicans and Democrats remain at an impasse in negotiating legislation to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would have extended additional unemployment benefits and poured more money into a small business lending program.
The vote was 52 to 47, and 60 votes were needed to advance the legislation for debate and a full vote on the Senate floor. The bill did not gain support from any Senate Democrats, who support a much larger package.
The bill carried a price tag of roughly $500 billion and would have provided an additional $300 per week in expanded unemployment insurance benefits for out-of-work Americans. Congress established a benefit providing an additional $600 per week as part of the CARES Act which passed in March, but that provision expired at the end of July. McConnell's bill also included an additional $257 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, which has provided hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to small businesses, liability protections and $105 billion for schools. Liability protection in particular has been a priority for McConnell.
The majority leader said on Wednesday that he was holding the procedural vote to get lawmakers on the record about their willingness to compromise on coronavirus legislation.
"It's a vote for senators to say whether they want to move forward toward huge amounts of relief for kids, for jobs, for health care, or whether they are happier doing absolutely nothing," McConnell said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced their opposition to the bill earlier this week, dooming its prospects in the Senate. In her weekly press conference on Thursday, Pelosi slammed McConnell's bill as "emaciated."
"Let's not have a skinny bill when we have a massive problem," Pelosi said.
House Democrats passed their own, but McConnell has refused to bring the legislation to the Senate floor, questioning its cost and the inclusion of provisions such as election assistance for states.
It is possible that Congress will not provide any further coronavirus relief until after the November election. Members of Congress seem committed to ensuring the government is funded past the deadline of September 30, but it is unclear whether Republicans and Democrats will be able to reach a deal on other issues.
Nearly 200,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, and there are over six million cases in the United States. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
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