Senate Republicans on Thursday failed to advance their scaled-back coronavirus relief package, as Democrats blocked the roughly $650 billion plan, which they called woefully inadequate. House Democrats in May passed a $3 trillion package and Democratic leaders have pressed for a $2.2 trillion compromise deal.
Thursday’s Senate vote — 52-47, shy of the 60 votes needed — was almost entirely along party lines, underscoring just how dug in both sides remain after months of deadlock on additional legislation to address the pandemic and its economic toll.
The result was as expected, as the only question heading into the vote was whether Republicans would be able to round up enough votes in their own caucus to make a display of GOP unity that could potentially strengthen their hand in any future negotiations — and, as they prepare for peak campaign season, better enable them to blame Democrats for not delivering more aid to suffering Americans.
They did. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was the only Republican to vote against the plan (citing an unwillingness to add to the national debt). No Democrats voted for it.
We’ll spare you the details of the partisan sniping that came before and after the vote.
What it all means: You can probably forget about another coronavirus relief package before the November elections. No new talks are currently scheduled and it may take some new pressure point for that to change. In the meantime, each side is looking to stick together and waiting for the other party to crack.
“If past is prologue, there's actually a significant chance that the public heat on many Republican senators as they go back home will have them come to their senses, and they'll start negotiating with us in a serious way,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said ahead of the vote.
A number of Republican senators indicated Thursday that they weren’t optimistic about the chances of a deal before November. "Congress is not going to pass another COVID relief bill before the election," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said on Twitter.
Sen. Chuck Grassley put the onus on Democrats and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to break the stalemate. “It looks like they don't want to get to an agreement,” he said, according to The Hill. “So my guess is, as of now, unless Pelosi changes her mind and talks to the White House, there's not gonna be anything done.”
Asked what happens next, McConnell reportedly offered a similar view: “Well, hopefully Democrats will come back to the table.”