Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday introduced a last-ditch, preelection stimulus package aimed at alleviating the economic strain of shutdowns related to the coronavirus, despite low odds Congress will approve the $500 billion proposal.
Roughly half of federal spending authorized by the proposal — more than $250 billion — would be allocated to a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans designed to help small businesses make payroll. Nearly 5 million businesses received nearly $700 billion this year under an initial round of CARES Act funding for the loans, which can be forgiven if businesses retain their employees and maintain their wages.
Notably, the proposal would not provide another round of individual $1,200 payments to Americans making less than $75,000, a staple of the first CARES Act passed in March. It is also just a sixth of the size of the $3 trillion HEROES Act House Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) passed in May — and half the size of an earlier proposal by McConnell to authorize $1 trillion in additional spending.
The disagreement between parties means the legislation is effectively dead on arrival in Congress. “This emaciated bill is only intended to help vulnerable Republican senators by giving them a ‘check the box’ vote,” Democrats said Tuesday in a joint statement issued by Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Speaking in an interview on Bloomberg TV, Pelosi added, the proposal “insults the intelligence of the American people.”
In addition to loans for small business, the legislation would allocate $31 billion for a coronavirus vaccine; $20 billion for farm aid; $16 billion for coronavirus testing; $15 billion for child care providers; and $500 million for fisheries. It would also authorize a $300 weekly supplemental payment for unemployed Americans through December 27.
Democrats have said they wouldn’t consider a proposal to authorize less than $2 trillion in spending. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has suggested the White House would be open to as much as $1.5 trillion in additional stimulus spending, though a handful of conservatives in the Senate have said they oppose any new funding deal prior to the election.
“It does not contain every idea our party likes,” McConnell said in a statement about his proposal. “I am confident Democrats will feel the same. Yet Republicans believe the many serious differences between our two parties should not stand in the way of agreeing where we can agree and making law that helps our nation.”
McConnell is reportedly planning for the Senate to vote on the proposal on Thursday, though a likely Democratic filibuster means it will require an improbable 60 votes to pass.
Mnuchin and Pelosi are presently in talks to formulate a separate continuing resolution that is expected to fund the government at least through December. That move would avert an impending federal shutdown on September 30. Congress will have just more than two weeks to act on that matter after the House reconvenes on September 14.
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