McConnell details $500 billion COVID-19 bill set for Wednesday vote
The Senate will vote on a $500 billion GOP coronavirus relief bill on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced on Saturday.
The bill — which is less than a third of the size of the $1.8 trillion offer from the White House — will include a federal unemployment benefit and another round of small-business assistance under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
The bill, according to McConnell, will also include more than $100 billion for schools as well as money for testing, contact tracing, and vaccine development and distribution.
McConnell will require Democratic help to get the 60 votes needed to pass the bill in the Senate. Democrats previously blocked a similar bill and are expected to do the same to the new GOP proposal.
“Nobody thinks this $500B+ proposal would resolve every problem forever. It would deliver huge amounts of additional help to workers and families right now while Washington keeps arguing over the rest,” McConnell said.
In addition to the $500 billion package, McConnell said the Senate will vote on Tuesday on a stand-alone PPP proposal. It would also need 60 votes to ultimately pass the Senate. Republicans had previously planned to hold a stand-alone PPP vote in August but scrapped it because of caucus infighting.
McConnell’s attempt to squeeze Democrats comes roughly two weeks before the Nov. 3 election. Republicans are increasingly playing defense and seeking distance from President Trump, who they worry could cost the Senate GOP its majority.
The decision to force a vote on the Republican proposal comes as the Senate GOP caucus and the White House have struggled to get on the same page on the size of a fifth coronavirus relief bill.
Senate Republicans unveiled a $1.1 trillion package in late July, but McConnell warned that up to 20 GOP senators could oppose it. It never came up for a vote.
Fifty-two of the 53 GOP senators agreed on a similar $500 billion bill in September that was blocked by Democrats.
Negotiations are ongoing between the administration and congressional Democrats on a larger package of between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are poised to speak again on Saturday evening.
McConnell, speaking in Kentucky this week, shot down the potential for a deal between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion, underscoring the potential headache the administration faces in winning over Senate Republicans even if it is able to lock down a deal with Pelosi.
“I don’t think so. That’s where the administration is willing to go. My members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go,” McConnell said, asked about the prospect of a deal totally between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion.
McConnell softened those comments slightly on Saturday, saying the Senate would “consider” a deal reached between the White House and Democrats.
“If Speaker Pelosi ever lets the House reach a bipartisan agreement with the Administration, the Senate would of course consider it. But Americans need help now,” McConnell said.
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