WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he’s scheduling a procedural vote on a GOP COVID-19 relief bill next week, pushing aid to hard-hit businesses in a smaller-bore approach to virus relief that Democrats say they won’t go for.
The Kentucky Republican says the first item of Senate business when the chamber returns next Monday will be a procedural vote on a scaled-back aid bill. Democrats filibustered a GOP-drafted aid bill last month and recent talks on a larger deal between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., fell apart this past weekend, probably for good.
“Democrats have spent months blocking policies they do not even oppose. They say anything short of their multi-trillion-dollar wish list, jammed with non-COVID-related demands, is ‘piecemeal’ and not worth doing,” McConnell said in a statement. “And she has worked hard to ensure that nothing is what American families get.”
McConnell’s move appears unlikely to work. The COVID relief debate appears to have gone back to a phase in which the participants have largely given up and are devoting time and effort to political positioning ahead of the election rather than negotiations and compromise.
For her part, Pelosi defended her demands for more than $2 trillion in COVID relief on a teleconference with other Democrats and a combative performance with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, who pressed her about shrugging off a recent $1.8 trillion White House offer. Pelosi said a handful of Democratic critics “have no idea about the particulars” of her negotiations with the administration.
President Donald Trump continues to agitate for “stimulus,” saying that Capitol Hill Republicans should “go big” rather than the limited approach they’ve been advocating.
Opinion polls show that additional coronavirus relief is a higher priority for most voters than quickly approving Trump’s nomination of Appeals Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. While many Republicans take a skeptical view of the need for more virus relief like special unemployment benefits or direct payments to most taxpayers, some GOP senators in difficult re-election races are eager for more aid.