The Senate is set to vote Tuesday afternoon on a pair of competing coronavirus stimulus measures that are designed to show whether senators support passing a lower cost Republican-authored extension of the small business loan Paycheck Protection Program or a more comprehensive and expensive bill that already passed the Democratic-led House.
Both of the procedural votes are more symbolic than real, in that neither is a direct up or down vote on the actual legislation and neither is expected to lead to passage of a law. But the votes do allow the two sides to say they tried to advance their legislation in response to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, as they jockey for political positioning ahead of Election Day.
Another stimulus vote is set for Wednesday, when senators will revote on a $500 billion compromise GOP bill that Democrats are expected to block for the second time in as many months.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer derided the vote on the $257 billion Republican PPP bill as a “stunt” and said it was inadequate response at a time coronavirus cases are spiking across the country.
“Today, the Republican majority will try to force a stunt, not even a real vote on a bill, but it leaves almost the entire country out of the picture,” he said.
Schumer argued the $2 trillion Democratic bill would do more to offset the economic problems as well as help eradicate the outbreak through robust funding for testing: “For months, Democrats have been pushing for the HEROES Act, a second installment of the kind of comprehensive Covid relief we passed in the first bill that brought so much to people, helped them stay in their homes, brought pandemic unemployment insurance, helped our hospitals, helped our local governments, helped do some testing.”
Senate Republicans have roundly rejected the Democratic bill as too pricey, even as it has been the subject of ongoing negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Trump administration.
That’s why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued the lower cost extension of the popular PPP program made more sense now because the program made a huge difference to small and midsized businesses even if it doesn’t include everything Democrats want.
“American families, working families have waited months and months for Speaker Pelosi to end her Marie Antoinette act and let Congress find common ground,” McConnell said. “There’s no reason the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program should wait another single day. So we’re going to vote on this legislation today. One clear vote on one clear program that everyone in this chamber says, says they want to pass.”