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Senate Democrats block slimmed-down GOP coronavirus bill as talks continue

Deadline nears for stimulus relief deal
White House, Congress nearing deadline for stimulus relief deal 05:30

Washington — Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked a $500 billion coronavirus relief bill proposed by Republicans, while talks continue over a larger package with dimming prospects of passing before the election.

The Republican measure failed to garner the 60 votes needed to advance on the Senate floor. Democrats argue that the Republican proposal did not go far enough, and question why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not brought a $2.4 trillion proposal passed in the House to the floor. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the vote was a political stunt, as McConnell knew the bill did not have the votes to pass.

"The Republican majority will bring up a bill designed to fail, their partisan, emaciated COVID relief bill. The bill we're voting on today has already failed in the Senate, didn't get a Democratic vote and we already know it lacks the votes," Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor ahead of the vote. A nearly identical bill proposed by Republicans was also blocked by Democrats in September.

But Republicans blame Democrats for refusing to make any concessions. McConnell on Tuesday accused Senate Democrats of doing "Speaker Pelosi's political dirty work rather than stand up for struggling people."

The Republican proposal included funding for boosted unemployment benefits, $100 billion for reopening schools and money for testing and vaccines. It did not include several Democratic priorities, such as more money for the unemployment benefits, funding for state and local jurisdictions and a second round of direct payments.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin remain engaged in negotiations over a coronavirus relief bill, but Pelosi appeared to acknowledge on Wednesday that a proposal may not pass ahead of the election. In an interview on Sirius XM's "The Joe Madison Show" on Wednesday, Pelosi said it's "up to the president to convince [Republicans] because the president needs this legislation."

"We obviously want to have a deal by November 3. That really is going to be up to whether the president can convince Mitch McConnell to do so. However, I don't think, I think Mitch McConnell might not mind doing it after the election," Pelosi said. CBS News confirmed on Tuesday that McConnell told Senate Republicans that he warned the White House against reaching a deal on a stimulus bill before November 3.

A spokesperson for Pelosi said that the speaker and Mnuchin had spoken for 48 minutes on Wednesday afternoon. Drew Hammill, Pelosi's deputy chief of staff, wrote on Twitter that the conversation "brings us closer to being able to put pen to paper to write legislation."

"With the exchange of legislative language, we are better prepared to reach compromise on several priorities," Hammill said. "Differences continue to be narrowed on health priorities, including language providing a national strategic testing and contract tracing plan, but more work needs to be done to ensure that schools are the safest places in America for children to learn."

Hammill added that Pelosi and Mnuchin will speak again tomorrow "hopefully with further guidance from committee chairs as they work to resolve open questions."

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday that he was "optimistic" the administration and Pelosi would reach a deal in the next 48 hours.

"We do share one goal, and that is hopefully to get some kind of deal in the next 48 hours or so," Meadows said. "I can tell you that the negotiations have entered a new phase, which is more on the technical side of trying to get the language right, if we can agree upon the numbers. We're still apart. Still a number of issues to work on. But the last 24 hours have moved the ball down the field."

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