Senate to vote on scaled-down coronavirus relief package


By Jordain Carney, The Hill



Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that he will force a vote on a GOP coronavirus relief package after weeks of closed-door talks between Republican senators and the White House.


"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 in a statement.


The Republican bill is expected to include a federal unemployment benefit, another round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding, and more money for coronavirus testing and schools, as well as liability protections from lawsuits related to the virus. McConnell didn't release a price tag for the forthcoming bill, but it is expected to be at least $500 billion — half of the $1 trillion package Republicans previously unveiled in late July.


The Senate returns from its August recess on Tuesday, and an initial procedural vote could be set as soon as Thursday. But the bill isn't expected to have the 60 votes needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster.


Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a letter to the Democratic caucus late last week that a "skinny" bill would fall short of the sweeping legislation they believe is needed to confront the health and economic fallout from the virus, which has killed nearly 190,000 Americans.


“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 wrote.


The forthcoming GOP bill doesn't include Democratic priorities like more money for state and local governments that has been a perennial sticking point in the talks with the White House and congressional Democratic leaders. It also doesn't include another round of $1,200 stimulus checks that had been included both in the March deal and a GOP package unveiled in late July.


And because it can't break a filibuster, and bipartisan talks have been stalled for weeks, it will largely be a messaging exercise. But by forcing a vote, McConnell is giving vulnerable GOP incumbents something to tout back in their home states during the final weeks of the campaign, as well as likely fodder against Democratic senators...