Senate’s “Slimmed-Down” Stimulus Bill Voted Down

By Katherine Goelz 

Last month, negotiations on the second stimulus package stalled between Congressional Republicans and Democrats because of inherent differences between the proposed plans. The $3 trillion Heroes Act had been passed by the House in May but was deemed “dead on arrival” as soon as it moved to the Senate. The $1 trillion HEALS Act, introduced by Senate Republicans in late July, was rejected by the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi had offered to reduce the House bill to $2.2 trillion, but the Senate turned down this offer. A deal had not been reached by the time the Senate officially adjourned for its summer recess on August 13.  

On September 8, Senate Republicans introduced a new, “slimmed-down,” $300 billion plan, entitled the ‘‘Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act.’’ The bill included a weekly $300 federal supplement to state unemployment benefits. This figure is a reduction from the $600 per week enhanced benefit that was granted under the CARES Act, which the House had attempted to extend under the Heroes Act. Under the original HEALS Act, the Senate had proposed an initial enhanced benefit of $200 per week, which would increase to an amount of up to $500 per week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never put the HEALS Act up for a vote, because at least 20 Republican Senators had voiced their opposition to providing additional COVID-19 relief. 

The Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Business Act included the Safe to Work Act, which was also incorporated into the original HEALS Act. The Safe to Work Act provides liability protection for businesses that are being sued due to COVID-19 related reasons. The proposed legislation also allocated an additional $257 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). However, the new bill did not contain a second stimulus payment of $1,200, which had been included under the HEALS Act. 

On September 10, Senator McConnell put the new bill up for a vote. At 52 votes for, and 47 votes against, the bill, it failed to reach the 60-vote threshold required to advance. The votes fell mainly along party lines, as all Democrats and one Republican, Rand Paul, voted to oppose the bill. 

It is unclear when negotiations on a second stimulus package will restart. Both parties seem entrenched in their respective corners, even as an increasing number of families and businesses find themselves requiring additional assistance. As the election draws nearer, it seems more unlikely that the two sides can agree to a compromise on a new plan.

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