Senate fails to advance coronavirus stimulus bill for second time in two days

The Senate on Monday failed to advance a massive coronavirus stimulus package for the second time in as many days. 

Senators voted 49-46, falling short of the three-fifths support necessary to move forward with a “shell” bill, which the text of the agreement would ultimately be swapped into. 

Democratic Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.) broke with the party to vote in support of the measure. 

The failed vote comes as negotiators have been in around-the-clock meetings over the past four days to try to close an agreement. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met at least six times on Sunday, and restarted talks after 9 a.m. on Monday. 

Schumer said shortly before the vote that he was “confident” that they would be able to get an agreement on Monday. 

“We hope and expect those negotiations to conclude today,” he said. 

But senators were unable to get there before the early afternoon vote even as they are under intense pressure to act.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average wiped out all the gains made thus far during the Trump administration roughly an hour before the vote. Meanwhile, there are now more than 41,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus within the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University

Schumer argued that the procedural vote was meaningless because negotiations continued off the floor and accused Republicans of setting “arbitrary” deadlines. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ripped Democrats for slow-walking the bill, noting that negotiations could continue even if they let the measure overcome an initial procedural hurdle. 

“The markets are tanking once again, as I said, because this body can’t get its act together, and the only reason it can’t get its act together is right over here on the other side of the aisle,” McConnell said in a blistering floor speech roughly an hour ahead of the vote. 

Tensions were running high in the Senate on Monday, as Democrats temporarily blocked Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) from speaking from the floor as they tried to get clarity on what the schedule was. Collins called the tactics “unbelievable.” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who was on the floor, could be overheard calling the maneuver “bullshit.” 

Republicans argue that Democrats should let the bill get over the initial hurdle because they would still have days of debate time that they could use to finish up negotiations. 

When Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) argued that they should be able to get a deal, McConnell interjected: “Does the senator understand that even if cloture were invoked, there is still 30 more hours?” 

Even as Schumer appeared optimistic about a deal, aides in both parties continued to point out sticking points, raising questions about how quickly they would get an agreement. 

A Senior Democratic aide said Monday that Republicans were “adding unrelated items” including an extension of an abstinence education program that would have expired in May. Republicans say Democrats are trying to drop in unrelated energy provisions. 

Democrats have also raised a laundry list of objections to provisions in the bill, with Schumer noting they were still discussing aid for corporations. 

A source familiar with the GOP bill text also said Republicans are “refusing to add strong worker protections” and have included language requiring companies keep employees “to the extent possible.”

Democrats worry the language is vague enough that corporations could take federal help and still fire workers. They also want strong restrictions on corporations who take federal help, but the source said the GOP bill included “very weak” stock buyback restrictions that could be waived by Mnuchin.

The GOP bill, according to the source, also increases a “corporate bailout fund” to $500 billion. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) had pushed to increase the $208 billion proposed in the original GOP plan to ensure distressed industries have access to capital.

Tags Charles Schumer Coronavirus coronavirus stimulus doug jones Joe Manchin Mike Crapo Mitch McConnell Steven Mnuchin Stimulus Susan Collins Tom Cotton

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