Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked the GOP’s $500 billion coronavirus relief bill, marking the latest example of gridlock on Capitol Hill as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin make a final push to strike a deal of their own before the 2020 election. The GOP-backed measure failed to secure the necessary 60 votes needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster, and ultimately failed in a 51-44 vote that was mostly down party lines, CNBC reports. A similar bill proposed by Republicans was also blocked by Democrats in September.
In a speech on the Senate floor ahead of the vote, according to CBS News, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer dubbed the vote a political stunt. Addressing his colleagues, Schumer, who had slammed the proposal after Mitch McConnell had confirmed there would be a vote, said "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."
At less than a third of the size of the $1.8 trillion offer from the White House, the $500 billion bill included funds for a second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan for struggling small businesses. In announcing that he would bring forth another proposal, McConnell, the majority leader in the Senate, said the PPP was "a popular program that has saved tens of millions of American jobs" and said funding it was "job-saving." The bill also included a $300 per week supplemental unemployment insurance benefit — half that of the initial price approved under the CARES Act back in late March (which has since expired) — as well as liability protections for businesses, of which McConnell and other Republicans have been staunch supporters.
McConnell, following the blockage, also said the bill included provisions targeting "Testing. Vaccines. School funding. Protections for people with pre-existing conditions," though it is unclear how much funding was provided for each of these. Notably, it did not include a second round of stimulus checks, something that was included in the White House's recent $1.8 trillion proposal.
The bill's failure comes as Pelosi and Mnuchin make a last-ditch effort to pass a relief bill before Election Day. The two have been talking daily, and, as of their latest conversation Wednesday afternoon, were said to be "closer to being able to put pen to paper to write legislation." They are set to speak again Thursday.