While House Democrats and the Trump administration continue negotiating, Senate Republicans have so far refused to offer meaningful assistance to millions of Americans.
The negotiations to send more federal aid to millions of unemployed people, more than 163,000 shuttered small businesses, and tens of thousands of public schools has become a seemingly unending back-and-forth.
The story begins back in March, when the Senate passed the CARES Act—the third piece of legislation tied to coronavirus pandemic relief. Since then, though, there has been little progress on extending help for Americans and businesses alike.
Democrats have offered (and passed) multiple plans since the CARES Act—including ones with a reduced price tag in an effort to compromise with Republicans. The Trump administration has also offered their own bills in an effort to strike some sort of deal.
However, Republicans in the Senate have been on a completely different page than the House of Representatives, Senate Democrats, and a majority of Americans. Despite the expiration of federal unemployment assistance and the start of the school year, Senate Republicans have not budged.
Take a look at all of the times since May that Republicans have failed to act meaningfully on providing the American people with relief from a pandemic that shows no signs of stopping:
House Democrats pass a $3 trillion stimulus package that would extend the $600 per week federal unemployment benefit, send money to state and local governments, and initiate a national testing plan for the coronavirus.
Over two months pass without action from the Trump administration or Senate Republicans.
Days before federal unemployment benefits run out, Senate Republicans introduce their own stimulus package, which provides just one-third of the aid proposed by Democrats. That includes just $200 to $300 per week in supplementary federal unemployment benefits—far below the $600 weekly boost that many economists credit for keeping the worst economic pain at bay in the spring and summer.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is forced to pull a planned vote on the bill after it’s released, as it becomes clear that the package will not get enough votes from Senate Republicans.
Federal unemployment benefits, which provided unemployed Americans with an additional $600 per week, expire. Those who have lost their jobs must now rely on state unemployment programs, which are notoriously meager and average about $320 per week across the United States.
Senate Republicans still don’t vote on a bill.
President Donald Trump signs an executive order that gives states the option to sign up for a $300 per week federal unemployment supplement. However, the program requires states to apply for participation and the approvals process is long, delaying how much assistance unemployed Americans receive. Several states run out of their allocated funding in little more than a month, while others see delays in implementation due to confusing rules for them to qualify.
The Senate leaves for August recess without passing any additional stimulus legislation.
Senate Republicans introduce a second relief bill, after abandoning their first attempt because of disagreements within their own caucus. This bill covers about half of what their previous proposal included, costing $500 billion and prompting Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to call it “emaciated.” The bill only provided $300 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits.
The Senate Republican bill gets 52 votes in support of their bill, but falls short of the 60 vote threshold it needs to pass. All Republicans except for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) vote for the bill.
House Democrats pass a scaled down, $2.2 trillion version of their bill. Reductions come largely from reductions in how long assistance is provided. The Senate does not consider the bill.
Despite ongoing conversations between Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to reach a deal, Trump tweets that he is “rejecting their request” and says he has “instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election.”
Trump reverses himself on Twitter hours later, demanding that Congress pass a stimulus bill for airlines and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which ostensibly helped small business owners.
The Trump administration offers Pelosi a $1.8 trillion package.
The Washington Post reports that “multiple GOP senators denounced” the Trump administration proposal. Without their support, it won’t get through the Senate.
The Trump administration sends a letter to Congress asking them to redirect unused PPP money to businesses. It fails to get Republican support in the Senate.
Trump tweets that Republican senators should cancel hearings to instead consider the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Once that is taken care of, they could then vote on a stimulus bill. This garners no support from Republican senators.
Pelosi and Mnuchin have regular phone calls about the COVID-19 relief package. Pelosi’s staff says there is progress, but considerable differences remain. They also raise concerns that even if the White House agrees to a deal, Senate Republicans will fail to act. The White House says that they will be able to convince Senate Republicans.
After setting a deadline for progress in talks with Mnuchin, Pelosi’s staff tweets that they are moving “closer to agreement.” But just thirty minutes before that tweet is posted, the Washington Post reports that McConnell told Senate Republicans that he had instructed the White House not to make any stimulus deals before the election.
Pelosi announces that she and Mnuchin are still talking and making progress toward a deal. However, it is unclear if McConnell will allow the Senate to take up the bill if a deal is reached.