Oct 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted COVID relief bill


Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked a vote on Republicans' $500 billion targeted COVID-19 relief bill, a far less comprehensive package than the $1.8 trillion+ deal currently being negotiated between the Trump administration and House Democrats.

Why it matters: There's little appetite in the Senate for a stimulus bill with a price tag as large as what President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been calling for. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) "skinny" proposal was mostly seen as a political maneuver, as it had little chance of making it out of the Senate.

The state of play: Pelosi extended an artificial Tuesday deadline for a pre-election stimulus deal after making some progress with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the White House's top negotiator. She plans to speak again with Mnuchin on Wednesday afternoon.

  • "I’m pretty happy. I think we have a prospect for an agreement," Pelosi told MSNBC earlier Wednesday. "I’m optimistic, because even with what Mitch McConnell says — we don’t want to do it before the election, but let’s keep working so that we can do it after the election."
  • "We want it before, but again, I want people to know: help is on the way," Pelosi added. "It will be bigger, it will be better, it will be safer, and it will be retroactive."

The other side: McConnell said Tuesday that the Senate would consider a relief bill with presidential sign-off if it passed the House, but he has privately urged the White House not to strike a deal before the election — arguing Pelosi isn't willing to give enough and isn't negotiating in good faith.

  • Senate Republican Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters on Wednesday, "The leader’s position is sort of dictated by the math. I mean, he knows where the votes are and as much as we all want to get a deal, a deal that would pass in the Senate with all Democratic votes and a handful of Republicans is not something the leader would like to happen."
  • White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was asked Wednesday whether the administration would be able to convince McConnell to get on board with a deal. He responded, "I’m more working with Pelosi right now trying to get her to be reasonable. Once we get a deal there, hopefully we’ll be able to discuss the merits with our Senate colleagues."

Go deeper: McConnell says stimulus "unlikely" before election despite Trump's desperation

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