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September 10, 2020

Republicans 'targeted' pandemic relief bill fails to advance in Senate, 52-47

McConnell accuses Democrats of blocking any coronavirus relief before election

The Senate on September 10 failed to advance a $500 billion "targeted" bill (S. 178) assembled by the Republican leadership, with a package of provisions providing economic stimulus and relief from the coronavirus pandemic, among other provisions. The vote to invoke cloture on the bill, thus ending debate, was 52-47 with 60 votes required for passage. All the chamber's Democrats and Independents in attendance voted against cloture, while all Republicans supported it except for Rand Paul (R-KY). Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), the Democratic vice presidential nominee, did not vote.

The vote leaves negotiations over the next pandemic relief bill at another impasse, with little progress reported between the White House and House Democrats since talks began in late July. Senate Republicans intended for the vote to show a unified position in favor of some action, given that a previous $1 trillion package of Senate GOP coronavirus-related bills (the HEALS Act) never came to the floor and reportedly faced opposition from as many as 20 Senate Republicans. House Democrats have pressed for passage of the House-passed $3.4 trillion HEROES Act, with their latest offer insisting on at least $2.2 trillion. The White House most recently signaled it might support a bill with a ceiling of $1.5 trillion.

The vote on the floor was specifically to invoke cloture on the motion to concur in the House amendment to S. 178 with amendment No. 2652.

On the Senate floor before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, "Should we at least vote to move forward and have this debate out in the open, or do our Democratic colleagues prefer to hide behind closed doors and refuse to help families before the election?" McConnell suggested that "Washington Democrats really care more about hurting President Trump than helping them through this crisis," and after the vote he tweeted, "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. Their goal is clear: No help for American families before the election."

For his part, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the floor that S. 178 did not include a number of items Democrats consider essential, such as housing assistance, nutrition assistance, aid to state and local governments, and funding to build out broadband networks. The bill "is one of the most cynical moves I've seen, a fairly transparent attempt to show that the Republicans are doing something, when in fact they want to do nothing," he said.

S. 178 includes these items among other provisions:

  • Liability relief for employers
  • Unemployment benefits through a $300/week add-on through December 27
  • Additional money for follow-on loans in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which closed for new loans on August 8
  • U.S. Postal Service assistance
  • Short-term assistance for child care providers
  • Pandemic preparation and strategic stockpiles
  • An increase in the CARES Act's new $300 above-the-line deduction for 2020 charitable contributions, to $600 for individuals and $1,200 for those filing a joint return
  • Additional emergency appropriations for the coronavirus health response
  • Two years of tax credits, based on the School Choice Now Act (S. 4284), for contributions to organizations granting scholarships towards private schooling, along with expanded rules for the use of Section 529 plan funds
  • Rescissions clawing back hundreds of billions of dollars from the money the CARES Act appropriated to the Federal Reserve for the Fed's section 13(3) emergency lending programs, such as the Main Street Lending Programs and others, which so far have not been used as much as expected (The bill would also terminate lending under these programs after January 4, 2021.)

Washington Council EY distributed an alert earlier this week summarizing the bill.


Contact Information
For additional information concerning this Alert, please contact:
Washington Council Ernst & Young
   • Any member of the group, at (202) 293-7474.