US Senate fails to advance Republican Covid-19 relief bill

The US Senate has failed to advance a Republican Covid-19 relief bill, as lawmakers remain deadlocked over the size and scope of the much needed stimulus package.

All Democrats and one Republican, Senator Rand Paul, opposed the legislation on Thursday in a procedural vote, making it unable to get the 60 votes needed to advance in the upper chamber, reports Xinhua news agency.

The vote was 52-47.

The new Republican bill contained roughly $650 billion in total spending, with new funding of around $300 billion and repurposed previously approved spending of $350 billion, according to a report by The Washington Post.

The extra $600 federal unemployment benefits, part of a $2 trillion relief package approved in late March, expired at the end of July.

The Senate Republicans’ new bill included extra weekly unemployment benefits at a reduced level of $300, but Democrats want to maintain the $600 benefits.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lashed out at Democrats for blocking the narrower Covid-19 relief proposal, saying the goal is to offer no help for American families before the November presidential election.

“Every Senate Democrat just voted against hundreds of billions of dollars of Covid-19 relief. They blocked money for schools, testing, vaccines, unemployment insurance, and the Paycheck Protection Program,” McConnell said on Twitter shortly after the vote.

“Americans are not enemies. Covid-19 is our enemy. It’s time for Washington Democrats to act like it,” McConnell said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, said the White House and Republican Senators need to “accept the gravity of the crisis” facing American communities and work with Democrats to fund the front lines.

“Our state & local heroes need our support so they can keep working to save lives. Pass the #HeroesAct now!” Pelosi said in a tweet, referring to a $3 trillion relief proposal House Democrats unveiled in May.

In a joint statement earlier this week, Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the new proposal is “laden with poison pills” Republicans know Democrats would never support.

“This emaciated bill is only intended to help vulnerable Republican Senators by giving them a ‘check the box’ vote to maintain the appearance that they’re not held hostage by their extreme right-wing that doesn’t want to spend a nickel to help people,” said the Democratic leaders.

Senate Republicans released a $1 trillion proposal in late July, but the two sides failed to bridge their differences before the August recess.

Senators returned to the Capitol Hill earlier this week, but Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on the relief bill.

Earlier last month, President Donald Trump signed several orders to extend certain Covid-19 economic relief, but analysts believe that those measures are unlikely to provide a meaningful boost to the overall economy.

Economists have warned that the US economy is at serious risk of sliding back into recession if the White House and Congress couldn’t reach a deal on another fiscal rescue package in the coming months.