McConnell to force vote on ‘targeted’ coronavirus relief bill next week

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that the Senate will vote on a “targeted” coronavirus relief bill next week that will include more aid for small businesses hit hard by the fallout of the pandemic.

The Senate is out of town this week after an outbreak of the coronavirus among its members but will return to Washington, D.C., on Monday.

“When the full Senate returns on October 19th, our first order of business will be voting again on targeted relief for American workers, including new funding for the PPP,” McConnell said in a statement, referring to the Paycheck Protection Program.

McConnell, during a stop in Kentucky on Tuesday, said the bill would be “highly targeted” and authorize around $500 billion. The bill, he noted, would include money for schools, hospitals and protections from coronavirus-related lawsuits. 

“I made some news today. We’re going to go back to the floor next week again with a proposal more narrowly targeted with a significant amount of money. I can remember when a half a trillion dollars … was real money,” McConnell said in Kentucky. 

“I’m going to try next week one more time. … I want to give our friends on the other side one more chance,” he added. 

McConnell’s decision to offer his own bill comes as several of his vulnerable incumbents have shown they are eager to make progress on stimulus legislation.

Senate Republicans panned the latest $1.8 trillion offer from the White House, which was made as part of negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

President Trump doubled down on a higher price tag for any agreement, tweeting on Tuesday: “STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!”

Republicans initially offered a $1.1 trillion coronavirus package in July, but McConnell warned at the time that it could garner up to 20 “no” votes and was never given a vote on the Senate floor. Fifty-two GOP senators then voted for an approximately $500 billion bill, but it was blocked by Democrats.

McConnell was quizzed on the coronavirus relief negotiations during a debate with Democratic opponent Amy McGrath on Monday night where he blamed Democrats for the inability to get a deal on a sweeping package that would offer aid to Americans and businesses.

Pelosi has “been demanding we throw $3 trillion at this problem in a way that is largely in many respects unrelated to solving the problem,” McConnell said during the debate, adding that Pelosi “has been totally unreasonable and not interested in getting an outcome.”

McConnell had been skeptical that there would be a deal on coronavirus relief before the Nov. 3 elections, and warned in Kentucky last week that the chamber’s first “priority” would be confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

But he said on Tuesday that he believes there is time to squeeze in the coronavirus bill before turning to Barrett’s nomination on the floor during the final week of October.

“Unless Democrats block this aid for workers, we will have time to pass it before we proceed as planned to the pending Supreme Court nomination as soon as it is reported by the Judiciary Committee,” McConnell said.

“Republicans do not agree that nothing is better than something for working families. The American people need Democrats to stop blocking bipartisan funding and let us replenish the PPP before more Americans lose their jobs needlessly,” McConnell added.

McConnell’s statement comes after Pelosi sent a letter to her colleagues on Tuesday outlining several areas where the White House’s latest proposal fell short, including money for state and local governments, help for small businesses and testing.

“This weekend, the Administration issued a proposal that amounted to one step forward, two steps back. In fact, in some instances, it makes matters worse,” Pelosi wrote.

Pelosi added that several House committee chairs released statements “expressing their concerns about the inadequacy of the Trump proposal.”

Updated at 1:29 p.m.

Tags coronavirus stimulus package COVID-19 Donald Trump Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Senate bill

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