The vote for a massive $1.4 trillion stimulus package designed to pump much needed life into the stagnate American economy was blocked earlier today by Senate Democrats in a 47-47 vote.
In order for a bill to come up for vote in the Senate, 60 Senators [3/5] need to vote in favor of the measure. Though Republicans hold a 53-47 majority, five senators are currently self-isolating after coming in contact with others who were infected with COVID-19, including Senator Rand Paul [Ky-R], who tested positive for Coronavirus earlier today.
In recent days, there appeared to be bipartisan support for a bailout of the American economy after, at the Federal government’s suggestion, most states have demanded all nonessential businesses shut down, put moratoriums on travel, and restricted public gatherings. The world’s voluntary social distancing is expected to severely damage the economy; some estimate a drop in GDP of up to 15% in the second quarter.
After the surprising vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell [Ky-R] said, referring to Chuck Schumer [NY-D] and Nancy Pelosi [CA12-D], “the build-up to this is that we had a high level of bipartisanship over the last 48 hours… And then, all of a sudden, the Democratic leader and the speaker of the House shows up…and we’re back to square one.” He added, “I want everybody to understand that if we aren’t able to act tomorrow, it’s because of our colleagues on the other side, continue to dicker.”
McConnell believes Pelosi overstepped her boundaries in influencing the Senate vote. “She’s the speaker of the House, not the speaker of the Senate,” he said.
McConnell concluded by saying, “hopefully some adults will show up on the other side of the room and understand the gravity of the situation before the markets go down further…we’ve never been confronted by anything like this before.”
According to a press release yesterday, McConnell said the proposed package “will send direct relief to the American people, deliver historic assistance to small businesses so workers can keep getting paid, help secure our economic foundations and prevent layoffs, and surge more resources onto the front lines of our brave healthcare professionals’ fight to defend Americans and defeat the virus.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer shot back on Twitter, saying “we voted no on the McConnell-GOP bill because among other problems it includes huge bailouts without protections for people and workers and without accountability, and because it shortchanges our hospitals and healthcare workers who need our help.” He added, “these changes need to be made.”
In response to the Democrat’s vote, McConnell said, “the American people are watching this spectacle. I’m told the futures market is down 5 percent. I’m also told that’s when trading stops. So the notion that we have time to play games here with the American economy and the American people is utterly absurd.” He added, “the American people expect us to act tomorrow, and I want everybody to fully understand if we aren’t able to act tomorrow, it will be because of our colleagues on the other side continuing to dither when the country expects us to come together and address this problem.”
According to The Hill, “Democratic senators argue that the GOP bill includes several ‘non-starter’ and walks back areas of agreement, such as expanding unemployment insurance, they thought they had reached with Republicans.” Democrats are also upset with what they view as corporate bailouts over direct worker benefits.
According to Politico, “Schumer and Pelosi are also seeking an additional $200 billion for hospitals and other health-care providers as part of a supplemental government spending bill included in the overall rescue package.” Whereas, “the White House had initially sought $48 billion for federal agencies, and Republicans upped that total to $242 billion, including $75 billion for hospitals. Democrats want to further increase it to $450 billion.”
Politico also reported, “Pelosi pushed a ‘laundry list’ of demands at that meeting, according to a GOP official, including a proposal to wipe off $10,000 from anyone who owns federal student loans, as well as election-security funding.” While it’s obvious that these issues are irrelevant to the Coronavirus crisis, “Republicans countered those issues were not germane to the stimulus debate; Democrats say they have insisted these matters needed to be discussed all along.”
The bill voted on today was what’s known as a ‘shell bill,’ and will be replaced with the full text of the package tomorrow, if it had passed this procedural hurdle.
33,000 Americans have been infected with COVID-19, and over 400 have died from the virus.