Senate Republican leaders hope to vote next week on what they are calling a “focused” and “targeted” coronavirus relief bill, setting up what they hope will be a tough political vote for Democrats shortly before November’s elections.
The timing of the vote needs to be approved by the entire Senate Republican conference, which is scheduled to hold a conference call Tuesday morning with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso (Wyo.) said Tuesday morning the “goal” is to vote on the legislation next week after the Senate returns from its August recess.“We have a focused, targeted solution that we hope that the House would pass and the House would agree to,” he told Lisa Desjardins, a correspondent for “PBS NewsHour,” after an early morning pro forma session.
Barrasso said the legislation is “focused on getting people back to work, getting kids back to school.”
He said “it leaves out” what he called “the so many things that [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi has put in her bill that are unrelated to coronavirus.”
But Barrasso noted the plan to vote on what is being called a “skinny” coronavirus relief bill next week still needs to be approved by the broader Senate Republican Conference, which is meeting via conference call with Mnuchin and Meadows.
“We’re having a conference call every morning. We have one again today with Secretary Mnuchin and the White House chief of staff to go over that, and that’s the goal — is to come back and vote to move that,” he said.
Any pared-down coronavirus relief bill would need 60 votes to pass the Senate, and Democrats are expected to block it, which could give Senate GOP candidates something to talk about on the campaign trail.
Senate Republican leaders tentatively planned in July to hold a Senate vote on a Republican plan to enhance weekly state unemployment benefits, although at a level below the $600 per week federal boost included in the CARES Act, which passed in March.
GOP leaders scrapped the vote, however, amidst disagreement within their conference over what kind of proposal to put forward. Mnuchin told Fox Business Network Monday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would introduce a new Republican coronavirus relief bill next week.
“Hopefully Mitch will enter new legislation next week,” Mnuchin said.
He noted the move would come while negotiations with Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) remain stalled. Mnuchin said the Democratic leaders “just don’t want to negotiate in good faith.”
“They’ve refused to meet,” he said.
“We’re going to keep trying, because it’s too important for the American people,” Mnuchin said.