Senate set for futile vote on skinny coronavirus relief package

Updated on

In another exercise of futility, the GOP-led Senate is preparing to vote on their “skinny” coronavirus stimulus package, which includes no checks, this week after the Labor Day holiday and the end of their August recess. The bill has no chance of passing the Democrat-led House of Representatives as Democrats have repeatedly refused to take a piecemeal approach to the legislation.

Democrats refuse check less skinny coronavirus relief package

One of the big barriers to passing another coronavirus relief package is the price tag. Democrats refuse to agree to anything with a price tag below $2.2 trillion, which means the skinny coronavirus relief package Republicans wants to pass has no chance of passing.

Sources familiar with the GOP’s negotiations told Axios that the GOP’s skinny coronavirus relief package has a price tag in the range of $500 billion to $700 billion. While the bill will not receive any Democratic support, it should be seen as an attempt to get Republicans on board with stimulus efforts.

The White House has previously offered a $1.3 trillion price tag to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but she dismissed that as well. Many Republicans didn’t want to spend that much, so the skinny coronavirus relief package is an attempt to get fiscal hawks to agree to spend at least something on the economy.

Why pass a skinny coronavirus stimulus package with no checks?

It’s unclear what all would be included in the skinny coronavirus relief package, but it is expected to include provisions that have widespread support among Republicans. Such provisions include funding for schools, broad liability protections and enhanced unemployment payments that are scaled back from the $600 that was passed in the CARES Act in March.

Since the bill has no chance of support in the Democrat-controlled House, many are questioning why the GOP is even bothering to pass it at all. Many Republicans do expect the skinny coronavirus relief package to fail, but they see the bill as a way to put Democrats on defense.

A Senate GOP aide told Axios that the GOP wants to highlight the needs that are most immediate and “force Democrats to essentially shoot it down.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the bill “emaciated” in a letter to Senate Democrats last week.

He said Republicans just want to give the appearance that they’re doing something “rather than actually meet the truly profound needs of the American people.”

Avoiding a government shutdown

In addition to passing more coronavirus relief, lawmakers are up against another major deadline. They need an agreement on the budget to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month. The good news is that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the GOP and Pelosi agreed to a “clean” continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown.

However, the bad news is that it means there is no deal on a relief package. Relief won’t be tied to budget talks in any way, which means struggling Americans will have to keep waiting.