Senate defeat of ‘skinny’ coronavirus aid bill puts it in ‘deadlock’

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States Senate on Thursday killed a Republican bill that would have provided around $ 300 billion in aid for the novel coronaviruses, as Democrats seeking much more funding prevented it from moving forward.

By a vote of 52 to 47, the Senate failed to secure the 60 votes needed in the 100-member chamber to move the partisan bill forward to passage, leaving the future of any news in doubt. help with coronaviruses.

“It’s kind of a dead end,” Republican Senator Pat Roberts told reporters after the vote.

“With a pandemic – COVID-19 – we have a policy pandemic” in Congress, he added.

Senator Rand Paul, who opposed the bill’s deficit spending, was the only Republican to vote no.

Democratic leaders in Congress have pushed for a much stronger response: around $ 3 trillion in new funds amid the continuing pandemic.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who led the failed Republican bill, proposed a more costly $ 1 trillion measure against the coronavirus in July. Amid strong opposition from Democrats and many Republicans, he was not even able to hold a vote on the proposal.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters ahead of the failed Senate vote on Thursday that she believed negotiations could still lead to a compromise ahead of the November 3 presidential and legislative elections.

But, following the vote, several Republican senators were skeptical.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said some job gains and early signs of progress against the coronavirus had left him less worried than before.

So far, the coronavirus has killed nearly 191,000 people in the United States and more than 900,000 worldwide.

The medical community and politicians are hopeful that the development of a vaccine will finally tame the epidemic after months when Washington failed to do so.

Congress is now expected to primarily focus its work on other urgent laws so that members can return to their home countries in October to campaign for re-election.

But an influential centrist Democrat, Representative Derek Kilmer, expressed concern over the stalled coronavirus relief efforts during a conference call with lawmakers, Democratic aides said Thursday.

“Representative Kilmer has said he thinks we should get a deal, not a bad or scanty deal, but a deal before we step back again,” a Democratic aide said, asking not to be named. Kilmer chairs the moderate NDP coalition.

FOCUS OF THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN

Earlier this year, Congress quickly passed four bills providing approximately $ 3 trillion to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The Democratic-controlled House passed a fifth bill in May that would provide an additional $ 3 trillion in aid, but the stalemate has since prevailed.

President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has become a focal point of the 2020 presidential race. Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who heads the opinion polls, accused Trump on Wednesday of “breaching” his face the pandemic, which has cost millions of jobs. The Republican president praised his handling of the crisis.

The Republican bill would have renewed federal unemployment benefit, but at a lower level than sought by Democrats. It would also establish new protections for businesses against lawsuits during the pandemic.

A range of other initiatives – including aid to states and local governments, a second round of direct payments to households, and bailouts for airlines – were not addressed in the Republican bill.

Reporting by Richard Cowan, Patricia Zengerle and Susan Cornwell; Edited by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney

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