- Senate Democrats voted against a scaled-down stimulus put forth by GOP leaders on Thursday.
- The bill would have provided $105 billion to schools, $10 billion to the Postal Service, and $258 billion in loans to small businesses.
- The failed vote further waters down chances that Congress will pass another stimulus before the presidential election.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The Senate failed to gain enough votes on Thursday to move ahead on a scaled-back coronavirus stimulus package.
The 52-47 vote further dims the prospects that Congress will be able to pass another stimulus ahead of the election. Congress will be in session only for a few weeks before lawmakers return to their home districts to campaign.
The 285-page bill, called the Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools, and Small Businesses Act, totaled about $500 billion in relief.
GOP Sen. Rand Paul joined all Democrats who were present in voting against the bill. The chamber failed to secure the 60 votes that would have been needed for the Senate to debate the stimulus and then pass it.
The vote on the scaled-back legislation — just like the bill House Democrats passed in May — was a political messaging tool to put Senate Democrats on the spot ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
“Today, every senator will either say they want to send families the relief we can agree to or they will send families nothing,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday on the floor.
In return, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the vote “pointless.”
“This bill is not going to happen because it is so emaciated, so filled with poison pills, so partisanly designed, it was designed to fail,” he said from the Senate floor.
McConnell’s bill was missing state funding and the popular second round of checks to individuals that Democrats included in their legislation. But it did contain money for the Postal Service and for schools.
Henrietta Treyz, director of economic policy research for Veda Partners, and Clayton Allen, senior vice president for trade, policy, and geopolitical risk at Height Capital Markets, pegged the odds of passing any stimulus in September at no higher than 30%.
Part of the reason for their assessments was that the unemployment rate has dropped to 8.4% — down from its 14.7% high in April. The economic outlook appeared to play into McConnell’s thinking as well.
“We have had a significant bounce back,” McConnell said Wednesday. “The economy is getting better.”
Here’s what stood out when Business Insider combed through the Senate GOP bill.
Boosting jobless benefits by $300 a week — half the boost from the last stimulus
Republicans want people to receive $300 a week on top of their unemployment payments until the end of December.
The boost isn’t as high as the $600-a-week increase to unemployment benefits that was established in March as part of the $2 trillion CARES Act. That provision expired at the end of July, and Democrats wanted to keep it going through the end of the year.
Through an executive order signed Aug. 10, President Donald Trump extended the boost to unemployment payments by $400 a week in states that chose to take up the option. Those payments were intended to last only about a month, putting pressure on Congress to act.
$105 billion for schools and colleges
The money is supposed to help schools reopen safely or run virtually. Colleges and schools across the US have moved to virtual classes after facing coronavirus outbreaks.
An additional $15 billion would go toward childcare grants.
$258 billion in loans for small businesses
Congress already allocated $670 billion for small businesses to get forgivable loans through a fund called the Paycheck Protection Program. The GOP bill would add another $258 billion in loans.
To qualify, businesses must have 300 or fewer employees and show a 35% reduction in gross revenue in 2020 compared with the same quarter in 2019.
Protecting workplaces, hospitals, and businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits
The legislation includes the Safe to Work Act, which would protect businesses that are following healthcare guidelines from being sued by workers or customers who claim a business was the source of their infection.
Republicans are worried that employers and healthcare workers will stay closed because they otherwise fear a round of lawsuits. But on Thursday Schumer called the provision a “poison pill” that Democrats would never accept.
Money to stop the virus through contact tracing and a vaccine
The bill boosts testing, contact tracing, and surveillance cash by $16 billion and boosts medical research for testing and treatment by $31 billion.
It would provide $6 billion to promote and distribute a coronavirus vaccine once it’s found. The GOP bill also directs health officials to come up with a plan to get the vaccine out to people.
$10 billion for the Postal Service
Republicans excluded this provision in the plan they unveiled in July. The bill converts a $10 billion loan from an earlier stimulus into a grant.
An extended deadline but no new money for states
The bill extends the deadline for spending state money appropriated under the CARES Act to Sept. 30, 2021. States haven’t spent most of the $150 billion that was set aside for them in that bill, and under current law the funds are set to expire at the end of 2020.
Democrats want nearly $1 trillion in federal funding to go to states and local governments to help avoid layoffs for teachers, firefighters, and police officers. The dispute over these funds has been one of the main areas of disagreement on Capitol Hill.
“Probably the biggest stumbling block that remains is the amount of money that would go to state and local help,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said last week on CNBC.
No new checks for individuals
The stimulus passed in March provided $1,200 checks to most Americans and was a popular provision that Trump supported doing again. The GOP bill introduced Tuesday doesn’t provide another round of checks, even though checks were part of the stimulus they introduced in July and part of House Democrats’ bill.