Oct. 18 (UPI) — The U.S. Senate on Wednesday will vote on a Republican-backed $500 billion coronavirus stimulus bill, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
The package is far less than a $2.2 trillion relief bill passed in the Democrat-controlled House and $1.8 trillion offered by the White House. Last month, Democrats blocked a $500 billion Republican plan.
With 53 Republicans, McConnell will require Democratic help to get the 60 votes needed to pass the bill in the Senate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have been continuing negotiations, including speaking for one hour on Saturday.
“Republicans have tried numerous times to secure bipartisan agreement,” McConnell said in a statement Saturday night. “But Speaker Pelosi keeps saying she feels ‘nothing’ is better than ‘something’ and clinging to far-left demands that are designed to kill any hope of a deal.”
The GOP bill includes funding for schools, expanded unemployment benefits, more funds for coronavirus testing, tracing and vaccine development, and a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program. The Senate will first vote on PPP funds Tuesday then the next day on the bill.
“Nobody thinks this $500B+ proposal would resolve every problem forever,” McConnell said. “It would deliver huge amounts of additional help to workers and families right now while Washington keeps arguing over the rest.”
Senate Republicans have opposed the White House being as being too large. Conversely, Pelosi has said the White House bill “amounted to one step forward, two steps back.”
McConnell has said Senate Republicans are not interested in a compromise between the White House’s $1.8 billion bill and the House’s $2.2 billion.
“I don’t think so,” McConnell said last week in his home state of Kentucky. “That’s where the administration is willing to go. My members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go.”
On Saturday, he said the Senate would “consider” a deal reached between the White House and Democrats.
“If Speaker Pelosi ever lets the House reach a bipartisan agreement with the Administration, the Senate would of course consider it. But Americans need help now,” McConnell said.
On Sunday, Pelosi said she must reach a deal with Mnuchin within 48 hours to pass legislation before Election Day on Nov. 3.
“They took out 55% of the language that we had there for testing and tracing,” Pelosi said on ABC’s This Week about the White House’s latest plan.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, was approved in March, including stimulus checks to Americans.
The $600 maximum unemployment benefit expired at the end of July. Then, an executive order from President Donald Trump provided up to $300 from FEMA disaster funds, but that benefit has largely expired.
“Working families have spent months waiting for Speaker Pelosi’s Marie Antoinette act to stop,” McConnel said in the statement. “They should not have to wait any longer.”