By Leslie Sack
Last night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) “Phase III” COVID-19 response bill hit a significant road block when Senators, by a vote of 47-47, failed to invoke cloture on a procedural motion that would have lined up a vote on final passage of Leader McConnell’s revised Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, significantly decreasing the likelihood of final passage today.
Senate Democrats disagreed with a number of aspects of the revised bill and criticized Leader McConnell for not protecting individuals from eviction, foreclosure, or forbearance. Democrats also took issue with the bill’s provisions on stock buyback and executive compensation, as well as worker retention and benefits. As negotiations continue, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) are pushing for the measure to include additional funding for: 1) state and local governments; 2) additional student loan relief; 3) larger direct payments and expanded unemployment insurance; 4) treating the uninsured; 5) more generous Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, and 6) expanded emergency leave provisions.
Leader McConnell is in a difficult predicament with this legislation, as five Republican Senators will not be voting due to self-quarantining. Yesterday, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) became the first Senator to announce he’s tested positive for the virus, and Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Cory Gardner (R-CO) are self-quarantining after coming in contact with individuals that have tested positive. With 60 votes needed to advance the legislation, and Leader McConnell opposed to amending Senate rules to allow for remote voting during a national crisis, it will be critical for Leader McConnell to secure Democratic support prior to final passage.
Leader McConnell filed a motion to reconsider the procedural vote on the package timed for 9:45 this morning, just minutes after the stock market opens, in an effort to advance the legislation. Meanwhile, Speaker Pelosi is expected to release the House Democrats’ “Phase III” bill that will serve as the party’s official counteroffer. Given the growing impact of the pandemic on the American economy and the sense of urgency on Capitol Hill, we expect that an agreement on “Phase III” will be reached early this week. SFA will continue to monitor the situation as it develops.