Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused his Democratic colleagues of using the economic needs of the country for political leverage by refusing to pass legislation to provide additional federal funding in response to the coronavirus pandemic before November’s election.
The targeted Republican-backed package failed to garner the 60 votes in the Senate needed to defeat a filibuster on Thursday, after every Democrat present voted against it. This led McConnell to suggest that Democrats opposed it as part of a greater political strategy.
“Every Senate Democrat just voted against hundreds of billions of dollars of COVID-19 relief,” McConnell tweeted minutes after the vote. “They blocked money for schools, testing, vaccines, unemployment insurance, and the Paycheck Protection Program. Their goal is clear: No help for American families before the election.”
The Republican leader noted the various ways in which Americans would benefit from the bill, but implied that Democrats withheld aid to Americans to maintain a status quo where people are in need until after they submit their ballots in November’s election.
“[W]orking families have suffered and waited and wondered whether Washington Democrats really care more about hurting President Trump than helping them through this crisis,” McConnell said in a floor speech prior to the vote.
The final vote was 52-47. The only Republican to oppose was Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who typically opposes significant spending. Vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., was not present.
The $300 billion GOP bill was a much narrower piece of legislation than what House Democrats passed in May, the $3 trillion Heroes Act. The Republican proposal would have given an extra $300 per week in unemployment benefits through Dec. 27, a second round of Paycheck Protection Program funds to small businesses worth $258 billion, and $105 billion for schools and colleges.
Additionally, the Senate Republican bill contained two things that Democrats panned as “poison pills”: McConnell’s liability protection plan, which would limit lawsuits against businesses and schools from people who contract COVID-19 on their premises, and at least $5 billion for school choice initiatives to help parents fund private schooling.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., blasted the bill as “emaciated” and said he hopes bipartisan talks could resume. He said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows “may be forced to return to the table” to strike a deal with Democrats because the coronavirus is the issue Americans care most about during this election year.
Fox News’ Marisa Schultz contributed to this report.