WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats blocked a vote on the Republicans’ $500 billion COVID-19 stimulus package Wednesday, arguing it didn’t do enough to help Americans hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Senate Republicans could not muster the 60 votes needed to defeat a threatened Democratic filibuster. Democrats previously rejected a similar, scaled-back proposal introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last month, arguing for a broader package.
The GOP plan would have increased federal unemployment benefits, aid to schools, funding for testing and vaccine development and the Paycheck Protection Program. However, it did not include direct stimulus checks.
The $500 billion bill was much less expansive than the $1.8 trillion package the White House has offered and the $2.2 trillion package Democrats have pushed for. Senate Republicans objected to the Democrats’ demands for more funds to state and local governments that McConnell said “Democrats have mismanaged for decades.”
Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell acknowledged the legislation was neither parties’ idea of a “perfect bill,” but emphasized the need for a compromise. “The country needs an outcome,” McConnell said. “Let’s put aside our differences, agree where we can, and move forward. Why not get the country in a better place while Washington continues to argue over the rest?”
Democrats called the vote a “political stunt” by McConnell, arguing that something is not better than nothing.
“It is just an effort to find some cover politically so people can go home and say, ‘Well, I voted for something,’” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin said.
“This package is missing so many key elements that we know it will not respond to this national crisis,” Durbin said. “It’s the old story of a man 30 feet from shore drowning and someone stands by the shore and tosses him a five-foot rope. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t reach. It doesn’t save him.”
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continued negotiations to find a compromise on providing aid.