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 ThuneSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Finger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Clash looms over next coronavirus relief bill 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 BluntSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick State and local officials beg Congress to send more election funds ahead of November Clash looms over next coronavirus relief bill 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 CornynLincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad Chamber of Commerce endorses Cornyn for reelection George Floyd and the upcoming Texas Democratic Senate runoff MORE (R-Texas), an advisor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse chairman asks CDC director to testify on reopening schools during pandemic Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Pelosi says House won't cave to Senate on worker COVID-19 protections 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 GrassleyBig Ten moves to conference-only model for all fall sports Republicans considering an outdoor stadium for Florida convention: report Sixth GOP senator unlikely to attend Republican convention 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 SchumerA renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Trump may be DACA participants' best hope, but will Democrats play ball? 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 KudlowLawrence (Larry) Alan 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.