Senate to Vote on New Coronavirus Relief Package After End of Recess

United States lawmakers are in a deadlock over the proposed fifth funding package to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic. With Republicans demanding a “skinny” bill of limited funding and Democrats wanting substantial support.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Tuesday that a vote will be forced on the GOP’s coronavirus relief package following weeks of closed-door negotiations between Republican senators and the White House. 

“Today, the Senate Republican majority is introducing a new targeted proposal, focused on some of the very most urgent healthcare, education, and economic issues. … I will be moving immediately today to set up a floor vote as soon as this week”, McConnell said in a statement.

​While McConnell did not provide any confirmation bills price, it is expected to include a federal unemployment benefit, further Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding, and increased financial support for coronavirus testing and schools, as well as liability protection from lawsuits in virus-related cases.

It is also expected to cost around $500 billion. Marking a 50% drop from the $1 trillion package Republicans previously released in July. 

The Senate will return from August recess on Tuesday, with an initial procedural vote organised for Thursday. However, the bill is not expected to get the 60 votes required to surpass the Democratic filibuster. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer issued a letter to the Democratic caucus last week, describing it as insufficient in tackling the encroaching health and economic crisis resulting from the pandemic, which has led to the deaths of around 190,000 Americans. 

“Republicans may call their proposal ‘skinny,’ but it would be more appropriate to call it ’emaciated.’ Their proposal appears to be completely inadequate and, by every measure, fails to meet the needs of the American people”, Schumer wrote.

Despite Democrats pushing for further support included in the bill, McConnell previously said that 20 of the 53-member Republican caucus wouldn’t vote for additional funding, highlighting the party’s divisions amid the fifth relief package’s arrangement.

GOP leaders want a unifying 51 votes for the bill but have not themselves come to an agreement over key points such as language over school choice and tax credit for home school-related expenses. 

Before the break-up of the Senate, Republicans proposed a $1.1 trillion package, while Democrats said they wanted House-passed legislation that included $3.4 trillion in funding.

Schumer and Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi offered to drop their desired cost by $1 trillion if Republicans would increase theirs by the same amount. Republican lawmakers rejected the proposal.

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