Senate could vote this week on ‘targeted’ COVID relief, $1,200 not included

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WASHINGTON (WTVQ) – The Republican-led U.S. Senate could vote as early as this week on a “targeted” coronavirus relief measure that is being filed Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

In a statement, the Kentucky Republican said “the Senate Republican majority is introducing a new targeted proposal, focused on “some of the very most urgent healthcare, education, and economic issues.”

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“It does not contain every idea our party likes. I am confident Democrats will feel the same. Yet Republicans believe the many serious differences between our two parties should not stand in the way of agreeing where we can agree and making law that helps our nation,” McConnell’s statement said.

“I will be moving immediately today to set up a floor vote as soon as this week.”

“I will make sure every Senate Democrat who has said they’d like to reach an agreement gets the opportunity to walk the walk,” McConnell concluded.

According to Reuters, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said he hoped for another round of federal COVID-19 stimulus funding before the Nov. 3 presidential election, but signaled no breakthrough in talks with congressional Democrats.

Interviewed on Fox Business Network, Meadows said he hoped legislation put forward by Senate Republicans would provide a basis for a future agreement with Democratic lawmakers and that negotiations were ongoing, Reuters reported.

Despite McConnell’s optimistic tone, even this deal could face trouble, especially since he apparently doesn’t have the votes line up to get it through the Senate.

Republicans and Democrats have been at a stalemate over coronavirus-related funding for months. Talks between Trump administration officials and Democratic leaders over a second relief package stalled in July. Democrats had been seeking $3.4 trillion while Republicans pushed for a $1 trillion plan.

According to The New York Times, the new GOP legislation is expected to cost $500 million to $700 million. It would reinstate enhanced unemployment benefits at $300 per week — down from $600 before it lapsed at the end of July — and dedicate $105 billion for schools, coronavirus testing and the U.S. Postal Service, the newspaper reported.

McConnell’s bill also would enact a shield against lawsuits for businesses and others that are powering ahead to reopen and write off $10 billion in earlier post office debt.

But it won’t contain another round of $1,200 direct payments going out under Trump’s name. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., continues to demand $2.2 trillion, and while Trump’s negotiators have signaled a willingness to inch further in her direction, a significant gap remains.

Republicans and Democrats have been at a stalemate over coronavirus-related funding for months. Talks between Trump administration officials and Democratic leaders over a second relief package stalled in July. Democrats had been seeking $3.4 trillion while Republicans pushed for a $1 trillion plan.

According to The New York Times, the new GOP legislation is expected to cost $500 million to $700 million. It would reinstate enhanced unemployment benefits at $300 per week — down from $600 before it lapsed at the end of July — and dedicate $105 billion for schools, coronavirus testing and the U.S. Postal Service, the newspaper reported, citing Republican aides familiar with the discussions.

“Senate Republicans have been trying for months to deliver more bipartisan relief to the American people,” McConnell said.

“In July, we proposed another sweeping package totaling more than $1 trillion,” the Senate majority leader continued. “Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and (Senate Minority) Leader (Chuck)  Schumer said no. In August, we proposed narrowing discussions to the most urgent and bipartisan subjects. They blocked that too.

“Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer said a targeted deal on jobless benefits and the Paycheck Protection Program would be ‘piecemeal,’ but then Speaker Pelosi came rushing back to pass the most piecemeal bill imaginable: Postal Service legislation that completely ignored the health, economic, and education crises facing families.”

House Democrats passed a $3 trillion coronavirus bill in May, but McConnell refused to bring it to the Senate floor, saying it read “like the speaker of the House pasted together random ideas from her most liberal members and slapped the word ‘coronavirus’ on top of it.”

Pelosi and Schumer have said they’re willing to lower their demands by $1 trillion and return to the negotiating table if Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows are willing to come up by $1 trillion, which the Republicans have rejected.

The GOP’s latest proposal — even less than what they had on the table earlier — is likely dead on arrival with Democrats.

“In May, while the American people and small businesses were crying out for help in dealing with a pandemic and recession, Sen. McConnell dismissed their needs, saying that Senate Republicans would ‘take a pause’ and ‘wait and see,’” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement Tuesday. “Now, after months of inaction, Republicans are finally realizing the damage their pause has done to the American economy and our nation’s health. As they scramble to make up for this historic mistake, Senate Republicans appear dead-set on another bill which doesn’t come close to addressing the problems and is headed nowhere. 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.”

The latest legislation is a gamble for the GOP. According to multiple reports, McConnell not only doesn’t have the 60 votes lined up needed to advance the bill, he’s also still short of winning over 51 Republican votes in the Senate. If that stands, it could give Democrats more fodder for attacking the GOP in the run-up to November’s elections.

“Senate Republicans have been trying for months to deliver more bipartisan relief to the American people,” McConnell said.

“In July, we proposed another sweeping package totaling more than $1 trillion,” the Senate majority leader continued. “Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and (Senate Minority) Leader (Chuck)  Schumer said no. In August, we proposed narrowing discussions to the most urgent and bipartisan subjects. They blocked that too.

“Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer said a targeted deal on jobless benefits and the Paycheck Protection Program would be ‘piecemeal,’ but then Speaker Pelosi came rushing back to pass the most piecemeal bill imaginable: Postal Service legislation that completely ignored the health, economic, and education crises facing families.”

House Democrats passed a $3 trillion coronavirus bill in May, but McConnell refused to bring it to the Senate floor, saying it read “like the speaker of the House pasted together random ideas from her most liberal members and slapped the word ‘coronavirus’ on top of it.”

Pelosi and Schumer have said they’re willing to lower their demands by $1 trillion and return to the negotiating table if Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows are willing to come up by $1 trillion, which the Republicans have rejected.

The GOP’s latest proposal — even less than what they had on the table earlier — is likely dead on arrival with Democrats.

“In May, while the American people and small businesses were crying out for help in dealing with a pandemic and recession, Sen. McConnell dismissed their needs, saying that Senate Republicans would ‘take a pause’ and ‘wait and see,’” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement Tuesday. “Now, after months of inaction, Republicans are finally realizing the damage their pause has done to the American economy and our nation’s health. As they scramble to make up for this historic mistake, Senate Republicans appear dead-set on another bill which doesn’t come close to addressing the problems and is headed nowhere. 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.”

The latest legislation is a gamble for the GOP. According to the Times, CNBC, and other media outlets, McConnell not only doesn’t have the 60 votes lined up needed to advance the bill, he’s also still short of winning over 51 Republican votes in the Senate. If that stands, it could give Democrats more fodder for attacking the GOP in the run-up to November’s elections.