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After lawmakers reached a stalemate over coronavirus bill talks, Senate Republicans released a pared-down relief bill and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will force the Senate to vote as early as this week.
“Today, the Senate Republican majority is introducing a new targeted proposal, focused on some of the very most urgent healthcare, education, and economic issues. ...I will be moving immediately today to set up a floor vote as soon as this week,” McConnell said on Tuesday in a statement obtained by McClatchy News.
The bill, introduced on Tuesday, includes $300 per week for unemployment benefits through December, down from the $600 per week payments under the CARES Act, which expired in July.
If passed, the legislation will grant funding for the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, $10 billion for child care support, $10 billion toward debt at the United States Postal Service, $105 billion for schools, $16 billion for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, and protection from lawsuits related to COVID-19. It will also provide $31 billion for developing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines.
But the proposal doesn’t include $1,200 stimulus checks for Americans or money for states and cities.
The Republican-supported plan won’t likely get the 60 votes it needs to pass the Senate — or receive support in the Democratic-majority House if it gets that far, CNBC reported.
Republicans make up 53 of the Senate’s 100 members and the leading Democrat in the chamber has expressed concern about the bill.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, called the Republican proposal “emaciated” last week.
“Republicans may call their proposal ‘skinny,’ but it would be more appropriate to call it ‘emaciated.’ Their proposal appears to be completely inadequate and, by every measure, fails to meet the needs of the American people,” Schumer said on Thursday, according to CNBC.
“With no money for rental assistance, no money for nutrition assistance, and no money for state and local services, the census, or safe elections, [McConnell] and Senate Republicans would be making another unacceptable and ineffective attempt at providing relief,” he added.
The House of Representatives passed the Heroes Act, a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill, in May, but it was never voted on in the Senate. Republicans introduced their own $1 trillion package, called the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools, or HEALS, Act in late July, McClatchy News reported.
Both bills had a second round of $1,200 payments, which were first approved under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act, in March. The HEALS Act would’ve included a $1,200 stimulus check for each person, along with $1,200 for each dependent — an increase from the $500 for dependents allotted in the first CARES Act.
Republicans and Democrats reached an impasse after they couldn’t agree on the cost of the bill. After the White House offered a $1.3 trillion bill in late August, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, turned it down, saying it wouldn’t be enough to help Americans during the pandemic.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows blamed Pelosi for the talks falling through.
“Here’s the problem: she puts forth a number, suggests that she came down and yet she’s willing to turn down $1.3 trillion of help that goes to the American people because she would rather them have nothing than to give way on what her fantasy might be,” Meadows said.