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Senate GOP leaders don't expect next coronavirus bill before mid-July

Senate GOP leaders don't expect next coronavirus bill before mid-July
© Greg Nash

Members of Senate GOP leadership said on Monday that they do not expect to be able to pass another coronavirus relief bill until mid-to-late July. 

The Senate is in session for more than three weeks before they leave Washington for a two-week July 4 recess. But several members of GOP leadership said on Monday that they do not expect to pass a bill before the break, delaying a fifth round of coronavirus relief until after they return on July 20. 

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneOn The Money: McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 | Lawmakers see better prospects for COVID deal after election McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Pollsters stir debate over Trump numbers MORE (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, told reporters that he expected the so-called "phase four" bill to pass in July, but not before the break given the other items on the Senate's agenda. 

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"If you look right now at the schedule for the balance of the June work period is DOD, great outdoors, a couple circuit judges. ... I don't know how you can wedge that in there," he said. 

Asked about the timing for the next coronavirus bill, Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntWorking together to effectively address patient identification during COVID-19 Trump announces intention to nominate two individuals to serve as FEC members Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE (R-Mo.), another member of GOP leadership, said he expected the timing for the next package would be the "end of July." 

"That's my sense of when we will and frankly my sense of when we'll have all the information we need to put the next bill together," Blunt said.  

The decision to wait until after the July 4 recess comes after House Democrats passed a $3 trillion bill last month that included, among other provisions, more help for state and local governments, another round of direct stimulus checks and a boost in food assistance. 

But Senate Republicans have declared that bill dead on arrival and said whatever Congress passes next will not have such a hefty price tag.

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A jobs report released late last week, which found a down tick in the level of unemployment, boosted the belief among GOP senators and aides that their decision to "pause" before starting negotiations on the next bill was the right decision. 

"We'll probably take up the next installment in the July timeframe," said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Pollsters stir debate over Trump numbers GOP faces fundraising reckoning as Democrats rake in cash The Memo: Texas could deliver political earthquake MORE (R-Texas), an advisor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTop Senate GOP super PAC makes final .6M investment in Michigan Senate race On The Money: McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 | Lawmakers see better prospects for COVID deal after election Overnight Health Care: House Dem report blasts Trump coronavirus response | Regeneron halts trial of antibody drug in sickest hospitalized patients | McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 MORE (R-Ky.), said on Monday. 

Asked if that meant after the two-week July 4 break, Cornyn added: "I think that's probably more likely."  

A spokesperson for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyBarrett confirmation stokes Democrats' fears over ObamaCare On The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Grassley: Voters should be skeptical of Biden's pledge to not raise middle class taxes MORE (R-Iowa) said late last week that the financial data showed why lawmakers "should take a thoughtful approach and not rush to pass expensive legislation paid for with more debt before gaining a better understanding of the economic condition of the country."

"Chairman Grassley will work with his colleagues on any potential further coronavirus response legislation if it becomes necessary. It’s too early to say what that legislation might encompass," they added. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hasn't explicitly ruled out that the Senate would pass another coronavirus bill before the two-week break. But he previously detailed the legislative agenda items for the current work period and did not mention passing another package.  

He also said late last month that Senate Republicans would make a decision on the next bill in the "next month or so," which would bump passage of the bill before the recess around the same time that McConnell has said they will make a decision about doing another bill. 

But the decision to delay the next bill until after the July 4 recess puts Senate Republicans in direct contrast with Democrats, who are calling on McConnell to pass the next coronavirus package before senators leave town.  

“There is no reason that we cannot respond to this moment of national crisis with vigorous and sustained action, with purposeful action and bipartisan effort on the COVID pandemic and long-simmering issues of police violence and racial justice. We must do both,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerReestablishing American prosperity by investing in the 'Badger Belt' House Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Graham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs MORE (D-N.Y.) said from the Senate floor.

“There are four remaining weeks before July 4. The time for waiting is gone,” he added.

White House economic adviser Larry KudlowLarry KudlowMORE told The Hill in an interview late last week that he and other administration officials have held informal, bipartisan conference calls with House and Senate leaders of both parties to exchange views on the next package.  

“There are no formal negotiations yet, but there are contacts at the highest level," he said. 

He added that he thought more formal negotiations were "possible" after the July 4 break. 

"I don’t want to second guess Senator McConnell or Speaker Pelosi, but I think that’s what people are thinking and as I say there are informal discussions going on," he said. 

Morgan Chalfant contributed.