SPONSORED:

Senate passes House's coronavirus aid bill, sending it to Trump

The Senate passed the House’s coronavirus aid package on Wednesday, sending it to President TrumpDonald TrumpCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Azar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments Justice Dept. argues Trump should get immunity from rape accuser's lawsuit MORE, who is expected to sign it. 

Senators voted 90-8 on the bill that passed the House in a middle-of-the-night Saturday vote but needed dozens of pages of corrections and changes, which cleared the chamber on Monday. 

The measure, which the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates will cost $104 billion, is the second package that Congress has passed amid growing concerns about the widespread coronavirus outbreak in the United States that has already bludgeoned the economy.

ADVERTISEMENT

The vote on the second package comes as senators are already working on “phase three,” with Senate Republicans wanting to pass that next week. The third coronavirus bill is expected to include help for impacted small businesses, industries and families, including direct cash payments for Americans.

McConnell has created GOP task forces for drafting the bill. Republicans briefed their colleagues during a closed-door lunch Wednesday and are expected to hand over their work by Thursday.

The majority leader told reporters after the lunch that Republicans were "getting close" and "hoping to be together shortly."

The bill approved Wednesday bolsters unemployment insurance and guarantees free diagnostic testing for the coronavirus. 

It also provides up to 10 days of paid sick leave for some workers. It caps that at companies with 500 employees and would allow for those with fewer than 50 to apply for a waiver. 

ADVERTISEMENT

But the bill’s path through the Senate wasn’t without drama.

The House bill, which was negotiated by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats point fingers on whether Capitol rioters had inside help Pelosi suggests criminal charges for any lawmaker who helped with Capitol riot Pelosi mum on when House will send impeachment article to Senate MORE (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinTreasury imposes additional sanctions on Cuba over allegations of 'serious human rights abuse' Treasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference Sanders defends push to impeach Trump: Insurrection won't be tolerated MORE, sparked fierce opposition from some Senate Republicans, who were largely sidelined from the talks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi mum on when House will send impeachment article to Senate Democratic senator: COVID-19 relief is priority over impeachment trial The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history MORE (R-Ky.) tipped his hand to the frustration ahead of Wednesday’s vote. 

“I will vote to pass their bill. This is a time for urgent bipartisan action, and in this case, I do not believe we should let perfection be the enemy of something that will help even a subset of workers,” McConnell said. 

“However, the House’s bill has real shortcomings. It does not even begin to cover all of the Americans who will need help in the days ahead,” he added. 

ADVERTISEMENT

GOP senators have bristled, in particular, over the paid sick leave provisions over concerns that it will negatively impact small businesses, some of which are already facing closure and potential layoffs because of the economic impact of the coronavirus. 

Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseSasse: Capitol rioters 'came dangerously close to starting a bloody constitutional crisis' McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time McConnell: Trump impeachment trial to start after Biden sworn in MORE (R-Neb.) railed against the bill, as well as Congress’s larger rush to likely spend hundreds of billions of dollars. 

“There is a herd mentality around this building right now where a lot of normally smart people are literally saying things like: The most important thing is to be fast, even if the ideas that are being advocated for are not really ready for prime time and can't really withstand the scrutiny of debate. That is a really dumb idea,” Sasse said. 

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Legislatures boost security after insurrection, FBI warnings Former Missouri senator says backing Hawley was 'worst mistake of my life' MORE (R-Ky.), meanwhile, forced an amendment vote that would have paid for the spending, partly by ending the war in Afghanistan. Paul warned that without covering the spending, Congress’s ability to borrow in the future could be impacted. 

“All because we refused to do what we were elected to do, which is to prioritize the truly vital, such as coronavirus relief and medical research, over the extraneous, such as spending money on clown colleges, gas stations and roads in Afghanistan,” he said. 

The Senate rejected that amendment in a 3-95 vote, and Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Democrats looking to speed through Senate impeachment trial MORE (D-N.Y.) knocked the libertarian-minded GOP senator for forcing the issue at all. 

"In a time of national emergency, this Republican amendment is ridiculous, a colossal waste of time. ... We are all eager to dispatch this absurd Republican amendment and send this bill to the president,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. 

The Senate also shot down two other amendments: One from Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayHawley pens op-ed to defend decision to object to electoral votes amid pushback Demolition at the Labor Department, too Hawley, Cruz face rising anger, possible censure MORE (D-Wash.) on paid sick leave and one from Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senators call for commission to investigate Capitol attack Wisconsin Democrats make ad buy calling on Johnson to resign Efforts to secure elections likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress MORE (R-Wis.) that would strip the paid leave language and replace it with expenses unemployment insurance. 

Eight Republicans voted against the bill: Sens. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnColbert asks Republicans 'have you had enough?' in live show after Capitol violence Congress rejects challenge to Arizona's presidential vote LIVE COVERAGE: Congress certifies Biden win after Pennsylvania, Arizona challenges fail MORE (Tenn.), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time 'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack Republican senators now regret not doing more to contain Trump MORE (Okla.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), James LankfordJames Paul LankfordThe Hill's 12:30 Report: What to expect for inauguration GOP Sen. Lankford apologizes to Black constituents for opposing election results 'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack MORE (Okla.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeRepublicans wrestle over removing Trump Lawmakers, leaders offer condolences following the death of Capitol Police officer GOP senators urging Trump officials to not resign after Capitol chaos MORE (Utah), Paul, Sasse and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottMcConnell says he's undecided on whether to vote to convict Trump McConnell won't reprise role as chief Trump defender GOP Sen. Tim Scott opposes impeaching Trump MORE (S.C.).