McConnell Proposes ‘Targeted’ COVID-19 Relief Package, but Dems Say It’s Not Enough
WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday the Senate would vote on a trimmed-down Republican coronavirus relief package, though it’s unlikely to appeal to Democrats who have already passed a much more sweeping package in the House.
The $500 billion package was released as senators returned to Capitol Hill for a brief, pre-election session. The House doesn’t come back until Sept. 14.
McConnell called the package “a targeted proposal that focuses on several of the most urgent aspects of this crisis, the issues where bipartisanship should be especially possible.”
It includes school aid, new money for vaccines and testing, and a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program for smaller businesses.
However, it omits many of the measures Democrats say are necessary, aid to state and local governments, more generous jobless benefits, and help for renters and homeowners.
All of these were included in the $3.5 billion relief bill House Democrats passed in May.
Even if some Democrats came on board for McConnell’s proposal, he still faces opposition within his own party. While Senators in tight races this fall want more aid, many of their GOP colleagues are resisting more spending.
Despite the division among the Republicans, the Senate is expected to vote on the relief bill on Thursday.
Democrats are almost certain to block the measure, which is about half the size of the relief proposal McConnell rolled out two months ago.
“It doesn’t come close to addressing the problems and is headed nowhere,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in a joint statement.
McConnell’s bill would provide $105 billion to help schools reopen, enact a shield against lawsuits for businesses and others that are powering ahead to reopen, create a scaled-back $300-per-week supplemental jobless benefit, and write off $10 billion in earlier debt at the U.S. Postal Service. There’s $31 billion for a coronavirus vaccine, $16 billion for virus testing and $15 billion to help child care providers reopen. There is additionally $20 billion for farmers.
The package will also include a school choice initiative sought by Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz and others that would provide a tax break, for two years, for people who donate to non-profit organizations offering private school scholarships.
It would also provide for a $258 billion second round of paycheck protection subsidies.