McConnell says Senate will pass House coronavirus bill without changes

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Trump signs T coronavirus relief package Pelosi not invited by Trump to White House coronavirus relief bill's signing MORE (R-Ky.) said Tuesday the upper chamber will pass the House's second coronavirus funding package without changes.

The decision comes despite some vocal GOP opposition to the measure over concerns about its impact on small businesses.

"With regard to the bill that came over from the House, there was some discussion about whether to amendment that with a bigger proposal, because we all know a bigger proposal is necessary. But I've decided we're going to go on and vote as soon as the Senate can get permission to vote on the bill that came over from the House, send it down to the president for signature," McConnell told reporters.

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Asked about pushback from within his caucus, he added, “My counsel to them is to gag and vote for it anyway." 

The House bill provides up to 10 days of paid leave for some workers and bolsters unemployment insurance.

But the paid leave provision sparked pushback among GOP senators who worried it would put a burden on small businesses. The House bill would cap the paid leave at companies with 500 employees. It would also allow businesses with fewer than 50 employees to apply for a waiver. 

Republicans had been discussing potentially trying to change the House bill, including adding in a "phase three" bill, which is expected to focus on impacted businesses, workers and industries. 

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump's magical thinking won't stop the coronavirus pandemic Lawmakers brace for more coronavirus legislation after trillion bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, stressed that no final decision had been made on legislative strategy, underscoring the fluidity of negotiations between lawmakers and the White House.

“I think what we’re looking at is sort of the House-passed version as sort of the baseline and then building from that,” Thune told reporters before the Republican caucus lunch. 

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“There’s definitely going to have to be a round three of this. ... How it gets across the floor and back to the House remains to be seen. It could move separately but maybe there’s a way it could be combined,” Thune added.

The Senate could vote as soon as Tuesday, though McConnell indicated the timeline is still in flux.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCoronavirus in Congress: Lawmakers who have tested positive Pennsylvania congressman tests positive for coronavirus South Carolina congressman tests positive for coronavirus MORE (R-Ky.) wants an amendment vote before the Senate passes the House package to pay for the estimated $104 billion in spending.

“If they allow us an amendment, we’ll allow them to do it more quickly,” he said.

McConnell indicated that he will give Paul a vote on his amendment, similar to how the chamber handled the first $8.3 billion bill that passed earlier this month. At the time senators tabled the amendment, effectively pigeonholing his proposal. 

--Updated at 3:56 p.m.