Senate falls far short of votes needed to advance coronavirus bill, as clash between Republicans and Democrats intensifies

Senate falls far short of votes needed to advance coronavirus bill, as clash between Republicans and Democrats intensifies

Senate Democrats blocked a massive coronavirus stimulus bill from moving forward Sunday as partisan disputes raged over the legislation aimed at arresting the economy’s precipitous decline.

Lawmakers had hoped to pass the enormous $1.8 trillion bill by Monday, but Sunday night they were scrambling to revive talks, with the stock market poised for another sharp drop and households and businesses fretting about an uncertain future.

Negotiations continued even as the initial procedural vote fell short; 47 senators voted in favor and 47 were opposed. The tally was well short of the 60 votes needed to move forward. The number of “aye” votes was especially low because five Republicans are quarantined over coronavirus fears.

Although senators of both parties and Trump administration officials vowed to continue negotiating — around the clock if necessary — the failed vote was the latest negative signal about Congress’s ability to come together around the legislation, which aims to inject close to $1.8 trillion into businesses and households. Policymakers are scrambling to address a spike in layoffs and businesses gasping for assistance as millions of Americans stay home to avoid contagion.
Ever since Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced the legislation Thursday night, senators have missed one self-imposed deadline after another to reach a deal. The vote Sunday evening was delayed three hours so talks could continue after it became clear it would fail, but no resolution was reached, and it failed anyway. McConnell set another procedural vote for around 12:30 p.m. Monday and dared Democrats to block it.
“Right now, they’re not there,” President Trump said earlier in the day from the White House with the vote underway. “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 Steven Mnuchin played shuttle diplomacy all afternoon and night, exiting the Capitol just before midnight after his sixth face-to-face meeting with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) while expressing optimism. “I think we’re very close. The teams are going to work through the night. We’re going to regroup the principals in the morning,” Mnuchin told reporters.

While Schumer also struck an upbeat tone — saying he was “very hopeful” of a deal Monday morning — McConnell left the Capitol visibly angry and accusing Schumer of blowing up an emerging deal early Sunday.

If the sides do not reach a pact by the early afternoon, votes will unfold that are likely to be a replay of Sunday’s blocked path, except this time the U.S. financial markets will be open and trading.

Source: The Washington Post

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