US Senate Democrats blocked a pared-down coronavirus relief package Thursday, calling it “beyond insufficient” to help millions of suffering Americans and raising the prospect that no new aid will be approved until after November’s presidential election.
The bill in the Republican-led Senate fell short on a party line procedural vote, 52 to 47. It needed 60 votes to overcome blocking tactics in the 100-member chamber.
The measure is a dramatic reduction from the $3 trillion bill that the Democratic-led House of Representatives passed in May but was never taken up by the Senate.
Now, Democrats have balked at the far smaller Republican measure that comes in at roughly $500 billion, including $300 per week for millions of unemployed Americans, compared to the $600 that expired in July.
Democrats complained that the new measure contained no new funds for cities and states, no second-round stimulus checks of $1,200 for individual Americans, and insufficient food aid.
“It is beyond insufficient. It is completely inadequate,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said before the vote.
Schumer said the Republican bill, crafted with no Democratic input, was “designed to fail,” and only served to give cover for some vulnerable Republicans who wanted to be seen voting for federal aid to struggling families.
“Rather than use the power of the federal government to help our citizens during a once-in-a-lifetime crisis, Senate Republicans closed their eyes, crossed their fingers, hoping they wouldn’t have to do anything,” Schumer said.
After his bill crashed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lambasted Democrats.
“Every Senate Democrat just voted against hundreds of billions of dollars of COVID-19 relief,” McConnell tweeted, noting they blocked funds for “schools, testing, vaccines, unemployment insurance,” and the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses.
“Their goal is clear: No help for American families before the election,” he said.
Earlier this week, the White House signaled it was optimistic that Congress’s warring factions could reach agreement on new pandemic emergency aid before the November 3 election pitting President Donald Trump against Democrat Joe Biden, but that now is up in the air.
Lawmakers still must come together to pass legislation that keeps the federal government operating into the new fiscal year, which begins October 1.
Suggestions circulated that some Covid-related relief could be included in that bill, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed that idea.
“That’s not going to be in there, no,” Pelosi told reporters. “Those negotiations are separate from this.”