Sep 6, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans to vote on skinny bill amid stimulus deadlock

Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

As Congress remains deadlocked on new stimulus funding, Senate Republicans are preparing to pass their own slimmed-down version of a bill this week — without Democrats.

Why it matters: Several weeks have now passed since key relief programs from the CARES Act expired and millions of Americans continue to struggle under the enormous weight of the pandemic.

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he's skeptical Congress can reach a deal before November because "the cooperative spirit we had in March and April has dissipated as we’ve moved closer and closer to the election."
  • The price tag being discussed could fall between $500 billion–$700 billion, sources familiar with the talks say — far short of the $2.2 trillion Democrats demand.

Driving the news: Nearly every morning during recess, Senate Republicans had a call with the White House's top negotiators, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, to discuss the status of the stimulus talks and where the vastly opinionated conference can find common ground.

  • Most GOP senators, particularly those in competitive re-election races, agree that they need to do something to cushion the economic blow of the pandemic, despite largely disagreeing on what legislation should like.
  • The conference has decided that they can get behind a narrow, scaled back package that addresses only the key issues with widespread GOP support, including more money for schools, widespread liability protections and restructured unemployment benefits.
  • "We have a focused, targeted solution that we hope the House would pass," Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said Tuesday.

Between the lines: Many Senate Republicans privately expect this effort will fail but see the expected vote as a maneuver to put Democrats, who passed their $3 trillion HEROES Act in May, on defense.

  • "They would like to change the conversation and highlight the immediate needs in a skinny bill and force Democrats to essentially shoot it down," a Senate GOP aide told Axios.

The other side: "Republicans may call their proposal ‘skinny,’ but it would be more appropriate to call it ‘emaciated,'" Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in a letter to Senate Democrats on Thursday, saying Republicans "are trying to 'check the box' and give the appearance of action rather than actually meet the truly profound needs of the American people."

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