U.S. Senate on Thursday failed to advance a slimmed-down Republican COVID-19 relief proposal, as lawmakers remain deadlocked over the size and scope of the much needed stimulus bill.
All Democrats and one Republican, Senator Rand Paul, opposed the legislation in a procedural vote, making it unable to get the 60 votes needed to advance in the upper chamber. The vote was 52-47.
The new Republican bill contained roughly 650 billion U.S. dollars in total spending, with new funding of around 300 billion dollars and repurposed previously approved spending of 350 billion dollars, according to a report by The Washington Post.
The extra 600-dollar federal unemployment benefits, part of a 2-trillion-dollar relief package approved in late March, expired at the end of July. The Senate Republicans’ new bill included extra weekly unemployment benefits at a reduced level of 300 dollars, but Democrats want to maintain the 600-dollar benefits.
Also on Thursday, the Labor Department reported that the number of initial jobless claims in the United States totaled 884,000 last week, unchanged from the previous week’s revised level, but the number of people continuing to collect state unemployment benefits increased by 93,000 to 13.4 million.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lashed out at Democrats for blocking the narrower COVID-19 relief proposal, saying that Democrats’ goal is to offer no help for American families before the November presidential election.
“Every Senate Democrat just voted against hundreds of billions of dollars of COVID-19 relief. They blocked money for schools, testing, vaccines, unemployment insurance, and the Paycheck Protection Program,” McConnell said on Twitter shortly after the vote.
“Americans are not enemies. COVID-19 is our enemy. It’s time for Washington Democrats to act like it,” McConnell said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, said the White House and Republican Senators need to “accept the gravity of the crisis” facing American communities and work with Democrats to fund the front lines.
“Our state & local heroes need our support so they can keep working to save lives. Pass the #HeroesAct now!” Pelosi said in a tweet, referring to a 3-trillion-dollar relief proposal House Democrats unveiled in May.
In a joint statement earlier this week, Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the new proposal is “laden with poison pills” Republicans know Democrats would never support.
“This emaciated bill is only intended to help vulnerable Republican Senators by giving them a ‘check the box’ vote to maintain the appearance that they’re not held hostage by their extreme right-wing that doesn’t want to spend a nickel to help people,” said the Democratic leaders.
Senate Republicans released a 1-trillion-dollar proposal in late July, but the two sides failed to bridge their differences before the August recess. Senators returned to the Capitol Hill earlier this week, but Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on the relief bill.
In early August, U.S. President Donald Trump, in an attempt to move around Congress, signed several orders to extend certain COVID-19 economic relief, but analysts believe that those measures are unlikely to provide a meaningful boost to the overall economy.
Economists have warned that the U.S. economy is at serious risk of sliding back into recession if the White House and Congress couldn’t reach a deal on another fiscal rescue package in the coming months.