Amid a frustrating deadlock in Congress when it comes to reaching a compromise for a coronavirus stimulus relief package, the Senate Republicans are set to vote on and pass a "skinny" version of a bill this week without Democrats. It's been months since Americans received their $1,200 stimulus checks from the CARES Act and weeks since federal unemployment benefits expired as millions of Americans continue to struggle under the financial fallout from the pandemic.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier this month that he's skeptical Congressmembers will be able to reach across the political aisle for a compromise before November because "the cooperative spirit we had in March and April [when the CARES Act was passed] has dissipated as we've moved closer and closer to the election." The price tag for the slimmed-down version of a stimulus bill could fall within $500 billion and $700 billion, sources familiar with the talk told Axios, which is a far cry from the Democrats demand of $2.2 trillion.
Even inside the GOP, agreements on what to do about the economic fallout are few and far between. While most GOP senators agree that something should be done, they are reportedly largely disagreeing on what that legislation should look like. The common ground that has arisen from daily talks between Senate Republicans and White House negotiators comes in the form of a narrow, scaled-back package that addresses the key issues with widespread GOP support. That means more money for schools, widespread liability protections and restructured unemployment benefits.
But even as the Senate Republicans prepare to vote on the skinny bill, many are reportedly privately expecting the effort to fail. They're also expecting it to put Democrats on the defense. "They would like to change the conversation and highlight the immediate needs in a skinny bill and force Democrats to essentially shoot it down," a Senate GOP aide told Axios. The House Democrats passed their $3 trillion HEROES Act in May, but it has stalled in the Republican-majority Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has railed against the skinny bill, saying it's more appropriate to describe it as "emaciated." He wrote in a letter on Thursday that Republicans "are trying to 'check the box' and give the appearance of action rather than actually meet the truly profound needs of the American people."