Senate readies vote on narrow coronavirus relief package

The proposal almost certainly wonít receive the 60 votes needed to advance.


By Marianne Levine and John Bresnahan, POLITICO



With the November elections just weeks away, the Senate will vote Thursday on a scaled-down Republican coronavirus relief proposal that may prove the last chance for Congress to address the crisis before voters head to the polls.


While the GOP proposal almost certainly wonít receive the 60 votes needed to move forward in the Senate, Republican leaders are hoping to get at least 51 votes for the package in an effort to show party unity and pressure Democrats. Senate Democrats have dismissed the $500 billion proposal as nothing more than a political stunt and are urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the White House to take much more aggressive steps to address the economic and public-health problems caused by the pandemic.


The Republican initiative comes as talks between the White House and Democratic leadership remain at an impasse. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, one of the White Houseís chief negotiators, cast doubt this week on whether Congress would pass another coronavirus relief package and instead seemed focused on making sure that federal agencies remain open past Sept. 30.


The stakes are high for both parties, with the November election less than 60 days away and only a short window left before lawmakers go home for a final stretch of campaigning. Meanwhile, hundreds of Americans continue to die each day from the virus while the U.S. economy remains moribund.


The House returns to Washington next week, but itís unclear whether stalled negotiations between Mnuchin, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will resume. Republicans are hoping that Pelosi will face pressure from moderate House Democrats to make new concessions.


But so far, Pelosi and Schumer are showing no signs of coming down from her price tag of $2.2 trillion, a key sticking point with the White House and Senate Republicans. The White House initially proposed a topline number of $1 trillion for a new relief package, but Mnuchin signaled this week the administration is willing to go up to $1.5 trillion.


The Senate Republican proposal being voted on Thursday would provide $300-per-week in increased federal unemployment benefits through the end of December, another round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program and liability protections for schools, businesses and health care providers during the pandemic, a top priority for McConnell...