Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday the Senate would vote as early as this week on targeted coronavirus stimulus aid despite the inability of Democrats and the White House to agree on what should be contained in the measure.
Democrats immediately rejected the proposal.
In a statement posted on Twitter, McConnell said Democrats have been blocking all overtures, rejected both the $1 trillion package Senate Republicans proposed at the end of July and smaller piecemeal bills that would have addressed the paycheck protection program and unemployment benefits for those who lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everything [House] Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and [Senate Minority] Leader [Chuck] Schumer have done suggests one simple motivation: They do not want American families to see any more bipartisan aid before the polls close on President Trump’s reelection,” McConnell said. “They have taken Americans’ health, jobs and schools hostage for perceived partisan gain.”
McConnell said the Senate would address healthcare, education and economic issues in the vote.
McConnell’s remarks followed statements by Trump Monday, saying he has no intention of meeting with Pelosi or Schumer, accusing them of not being interested in making any deal.
“I know my customers; that’s what I do. I know Pelosi, I know Schumer very well. They don’t want to make a deal because they think it’s good for politics if they don’t make a deal,” Trump told a Labor Day news conference.
He added: “They don’t want to make a deal because they know that’s good for the economy. And if they make a deal that’s good for the economy, and therefore it’s good for me for the election in November — Nov. 3, and therefore they’re not going to make a deal.”
In May, House Democrats passed a more than $3 trillion package while Republicans offered a $1 trillion measure at the end of July, and the White House said it did not want to go much above the $1 trillion price tag.
Negotiations broke down Aug. 7, prompting Trump to sign a series of executive orders, including one that replaced the $600 a week unemployment compensation benefit with a $300 augmentation good for just three weeks.
In a joint statement issued Tuesday, Pelosi and Schumer criticized Republicans for refusing to engage in any negotiations until just before CARES Act provisions expired July 31.
“As they scramble to make up for this historic mistake, Senate Republicans appear dead-set on another bill which doesn’t come close to addressing the problems and is headed nowhere. If anyone doubts McConnell’s true intent is anything but political, just look at the bill. This proposal is laden with poison pills Republicans know Democrats would never support,” Pelosi and Schumer said.
“Instead of helping state and local workers facing layoffs, feeding hungry families, providing adequate funding for testing and treatment to fight the pandemic, helping renters keep the roof over the heads, stopping the dismantling of the U.S. Postal system and making sure Americans can cast their ballots safely in fair elections this November, this emaciated bill is only intended to help vulnerable Republican Senators by giving them a ‘check the box’ vote to maintain the appearance that they’re not held hostage by their extreme right-wing that doesn’t want to spend a nickel to help people.”
It was unclear whether McConnell has the support to pass the proposed measure. As many as 20 Republican senators have said they have no intention of supporting any more coronavirus relief. McConnell has largely recused himself from negotiations, leaving them to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who was known for blowing up deals during his tenure in the House.