WASHINGTON – The Senate will vote next week on a roughly $500 billion COVID-19 relief package that mirrors an earlier Republican proposal, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday.
The decision to push another “skinny” relief bill marked a new attempt to jump-start negotiations that have been stalled for months over the size and shape of the next round of economic aid for the pandemic.
A $1.8 trillion relief offer last week from the Trump administration landed with a thud on Capitol Hill, as House Democrats said it was too small and Senate Republicans said it was too big.
But there was little reason to think that the upcoming legislation pushed by McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, stands any real chance of becoming law. And the strategy of going narrow and “targeted,” as McConnell put it, appeared to contradict President Donald Trump’s own intentions.
“STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!” the president tweeted, within minutes of McConnell’s announcement.
Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said the mixed messages from Republicans promised to complicate prospects for a bipartisan compromise.
“It would sure be great if the president and Senator McConnell were speaking to one another and had a common approach,” Durbin told reporters Tuesday. “What I hear from Senator McConnell is once again, ‘Take a little piece and be satisfied.’ And what I hear from the president (is) just the opposite. Can the two of them sit down and agree? Wouldn’t that be a breakthrough?”
McConnell said his new package would provide “roughly $500 billion” in relief, including unemployment assistance, more money for schools and health care, and new funding for the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses. FiscalNote, the parent company of CQ Roll Call, received a loan under the program.
The GOP measure will also contain liability protections so businesses, schools and health care providers that follow the appropriate health precautions can’t be sued if people get sick. That’s been a top demand of McConnell’s since discussions began on a new aid package over the summer.
“We will go to the floor again Monday with another effort to try to get an outcome even in the midst of this hotly contested election,” McConnell said during a campaign stop in Kentucky on Tuesday. “What I will put on the floor will basically be a bill that we tried to pass months ago and couldn’t get a single Democrat to support.”