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Coronavirus Stimulus Bill Fails to Pass the Senate as Democrats Reject It

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Coronavirus Stimulus Bill Fails to Pass the Senate as Democrats Reject It

2020-03-23 16:01:281 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Rand Paul (Image source: Screenshot)

It's pretty bad when a group can't even pass a bill to protect people from a disease despite the knowledge that one of their own is suffering from that disease. The Senate failed to pass the $1.8 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, with Democrats rejecting it. The GOP did not have the power they normally have in the Senate, as five Republican senators are either sick or in quarantine. 

The goal of the bill is to insert money into the economy that is currently failing with many people not working, as they have been ordered to stay at home, and with businesses suffering from the same. The bill's current contents will provide $1,200 to American adults with a middle income and $500 to children. It also hands billions to small businesses in the form of loans as well as even more billions to major corporations, and that's where the Democrats pulled back.

The Senate spent both Friday and Saturday working on the bill, with both Democrats and Senators feeling they made progress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) then announced he was going ahead with drafting the bill even though the two sides had not come to an agreement yet.  

The initial procedural vote was not promising for McConnell. There were just 47 in favor of the current form of the bill and 47 opposed. This left them with far less than the 60 votes needed to pass.

Much of this was because of the absence of five Republican senators. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) had already self-quarantined after coming in contact with people who had been infected with coronavirus COVID-19. 

On Sunday Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced he is the first senator to test positive for the virus. After he was tested, he went ahead and worked out with others in the Senate gym that morning. Shortly after his announcement, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) announced they had contact with Paul, so they would be self-quarantining as well, leaving five votes off the floor.

Despite McConnell promising that the bill would be quickly passed, the Senate has continued to miss their deadlines and reach a deal. The vote was delayed on Sunday, yet it still failed. The Senate majority leader set 12:30 pm Monday for another procedural vote. 

"Right now, they're not there," Donald Trump said earlier Sunday from the White House. "But I think that the Democrats want to get there. And I can tell you for a fact, the Republicans want to get there. And I don't think anybody actually has a choice."

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin continued to work throughout the day with the Senate to get a form of the bill everyone could agree on. Just before midnight he left the Capitol after a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and said he thought they were "very close" and promised they would "work through the night" and "regroup the principals in the morning. 

Schumer was "very hopeful" as well that a deal could be worked out on Monday; however, McConnell left in a foul mood, blaming Schumer for ending a promising deal earlier on Sunday.

McConnell insisted it was time for the Democrats to "take 'yes' for an answer" and accept the bill that he thought included many of their ideas. Yet, Democrats continued to feel the bill still favored corporations too much and didn't provide oversight for the $500 billion in loans and guarantees for the companies the Treasury Department is selecting as being deserving.  

"The notion that we have time to play games here with the American economy and the American people is utterly absurd," said McConnell after the vote failed.

"The American people expect us to act tomorrow, and I want everybody to fully understand if we aren't able to act tomorrow, it will be because of our colleagues on the other side continuing to dicker when the country expects us to come together." 

Schumer complained that it was the GOP who were being unreasonable by attempting to pass what he referred to as a partisan bill. Despite the Republicans making some concessions, Democrats felt the bill still didn't do enough to tackle health care and help average Americans.

"No, let me be clear: The majority leader was well aware of how this vote would go before it happened, but he chose to move forward with it anyway — even though negotiations are continuing, so who's playing games?" Schumer asked from the floor before also asking, "Can we overcome the remaining disagreements in the next 24 hours? Yes. We can, and we should. The nation demands it." 

Democrats are labeling the $500 billion in loans and loan guarantees for businesses in the bill a "slush fund" because the Treasury Department would have the power to decide who gets the money.

"They're throwing caution to the wind for average workers and people on Main Street and going balls to the wall for people on Wall Street," said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) of the Republican senators. 

Trump's words indicate that he's on the side of the Democrats. "I don't want to give a bailout to a company and then have somebody go out and use that money to buy back stock in the company and raise the price and then get a bonus," he said. "So I may be Republican, but I don't like that. I want them to use the money for the workers."

After a morning meeting with McConnell, Schumer, Mnuchin, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) suggested the House Democrats would be creating their own bill, "and hopefully it will be compatible," she said of the Democrats' aspiration with what the Senate is working on.  

There are still bad feelings amongst Republicans over the $100 billion coronavirus relief bill that was passed after negotiations between Pelosi and Mnuchin. The Senate GOP weren't satisfied with the paid sick leave provisions in the second coronavirus-related bill to be released. The first bill gave the public health system $8.3 billion to develop vaccines and for other reasons.

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