As partisan finger-pointing continues, McConnell promises stimulus vote in Senate

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Even as both sides continue to point fingers and blame each other for the lack of a new round of economic stimulus for individuals and business to offset the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Senate could vote as early as Monday on another version.

As is the case with previous votes, the plan is meant in part to give Republicans in the Senate some political cover if no agreement is reached before the Nov. 3 election. It also would give them more ammunition to blame Democrats on the stalemate, although the Democratic-controlled House has approved two different proposals that have not been taken up in the Republican-majority Senate.

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With 21 days until the Nov. 3 election and the Senate consumed for now confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, Kentuxky Republican and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell shifted some of the rhetoric back to the stimulus Tuesday.

“Secretary Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Meadows are right: There is no excuse for Democrats to keep blocking job-saving funding for the Paycheck Protection Program while other conversations continue,” he said, referring to members of the Trump administration leading the current negotiations.

“The PPP is a popular program that has saved tens of millions of American jobs. It is so bipartisan that its first round was replenished and extended several times by unanimous consent in both the Senate and the House. But it has become yet another casualty of Democrats’ all-or-nothing obstruction,” McConnell continued, trying to sway the business community.

“Last month, 52 Senate Republicans voted to pass hundreds of billions more dollars for priorities like testing, healthcare, safe schools, unemployment benefits, and economic support. That included legislation from Chairman Rubio and Senator Collins that would provide a second round of the PPP for the hardest-hit small businesses while streamlining the program and strengthening oversight,” he added.

With all the bluster, negotiators on both sides continue to look for a way around the deadlock on another economic stimulus package.

According to CNET, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she remains “hopeful” she and White House negotiators can reach a deal, even as she was critical of the President about his attitude about the coronavirus, its damage to the economy and the more than 215,000 lives lost.

Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, of California, urged Pelosi to take the $1.8 trillion deal from Mnuchin. “We’re in a place that we should be able to cut a deal,” Khanna told Roll Call.

And the President remains confident he can get Republicans to support any agreement his negotiators work out with House Democrats. “Republicans should be strongly focused on completing a wonderful stimulus package for the American People!” Trump tweeted Monday, according to CNET.

Meanwhile, the White House lobbying Congress to repurpose $130 billion in unused funds from the CARES Act for additional aid. That could be part of any package McConnell and others bring up for a vote in the Senate next week, according to a number of Washington media outlets.

According to CNET, if it were to pass, a comprehensive stimulus bill would include a new direct payment of up to $1,200 per person and a change in eligibility rules for dependents that could yield more money for families. (Here are the biggest stimulus check takeaways to know.)

Meanwhile, in public, the blame-game continues in hopes voters might not be paying attention.

“Democrats have spent months blocking policies they do not even oppose. They say anything short of their multi-trillion-dollar wish list, jammed with non-COVID-related demands, is ‘piecemeal’ and not worth doing. Speaker Pelosi frequently says she feels ‘nothing‘ is better than ‘something.’ And she has worked hard to ensure that nothing is what American families get,” McConnell accused during Tuesday’s statement.

“When the full Senate returns on October 19, our first order of business will be voting again on targeted relief for American workers, including new funding for the PPP,” McConnell added.

Below are some summaries and history compiled and reported by CNET:

Could there be a standalone bill if talks for a larger bill falter?

Despite Pelosi’s consistent rejection of standalone bills in the absence of assurances there will also be a larger stimulus proposal to go along with it, the idea is again being floated by the White House and Senate Republicans as a way to get around the negotiation gridlock and deliver some aid before the election.

On Sunday, Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows urged Congress to divert $130 billion in unused money from the payroll protection program that was part the CARES Act. It would fund new financial assistance for small businesses or the airline industry. (That isn’t enough to fund stimulus checks.) The Senate may draft a smaller bill as well, which at this point would also be unlikely to pass the House.

As for Trump advancing another executive order like he did in August? “No. No. He can’t do this by executive order,” Pelosi said Oct. 5 when asked in an interview. “He can’t do the money without the Congress of the United States. The power of the purse begins in the House.”

Why did Trump stop stimulus talks and then double down?

President Donald Trump — while being treated for COVID-19 with a powerful steroid known to have side effects — told his team on Oct. 6 to stop negotiating on a new deal. He directed Congress instead to pass a standalone bill for another round of $1,200 checks and renew payroll assistance for the airlines and other industries.

By Oct. 9, he was encouraging negotiators to “go big” on a new stimulus bill and on Oct. 12 he urged fellow Republicans to “pull back” on the due process for Barrett’s confirmation hearings “and go for STIMULUS for the people!!!”

According to Trump on Oct. 6, his belief that a deal on a stimulus package wouldn’t be reached in the short time left and desire to quickly confirm Supreme Court associate justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett, led to the decision. Barrett’s confirmation hearing began Oct. 12.

When could a new relief bill pass, before or after the election?

With just a few weeks before the Nov. 3 election, Congress is running out of time to pass additional aid.

If talks fizzle before Nov. 3, Pelosi has said that Congress could pick up the thread on another economic rescue package following the election. But with talks currently ongoing, we’ve suggested five possible dates, both before and after the November election. These are speculative only. If a bill does pass, here’s how quickly we think the IRS could send a second stimulus check.

WHEN COULD A STAND-ALONE STIMULUS BILL OR PACKAGE PASS?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Oct. 26 Oct. 27 Oct. 28
Nov. 9 Nov. 10 Nov. 11
Nov. 16 Nov. 17 Nov. 18
Nov. 23 Nov. 24 Nov. 25
Feb. 1, 2021 Feb. 2, 2021 Feb. 3, 2021

Didn’t the House pass a new stimulus bill?

On Oct. 1, the House of Representatives passed a revised Heroes Act that includes a second stimulus check and additional benefits such as enhanced unemployment benefits for tens of millions of Americans. The new House bill, endorsed primarily by Democrats, has little chance of advancing through the Republican-controlled Senate, though.

According to Pelosi, the vote on the revised Heroes bill was independent of ongoing negotiations with Mnuchin. If Pelosi and Mnuchin do agree on a new proposal, a new bill would need to be separately drafted and voted on in both the House and Senate before being signed into law. The total cost of the package and funding allocations like a child tax credit have remained chief sticking points.

Why did the House vote on Heroes 2.0 if talks are continuing?

The vote is thought to provide cover for House Democrats as they campaign without a new relief bill, much as the Senate did earlier in September for Republican members with its $650 billion skinny bill. Like the skinny Senate bill, this new House proposal has little chance of advancing in the other chamber.

Which areas do Democrats and Republicans agree on?

Proposals from both sides include another stimulus payment of up to $1,200 for individuals who meet the requirements, among topics like aid for airlines, enhanced unemployment insurance and extending the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses.

So what happens now?

The situation is still in flux. Anything could still happen.