Senate Democrats Block Coronavirus Economic Relief Bill For a Second Time
Do you support the filibuster of the COVID-19 economic relief bill?
by Countable | 3.23.20
UPDATE - 3/23/20 (2:30pm EDT): For the second time in two days, Senate Democrats voted to block the continuation of debate while negotiations progress on the “phase 3” coronavirus economic relief bill through a legislative filibuster. The vote failed 49-46, and required 60 votes to succeed.
Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) was the only Democrat to join Republicans in voting in favor of the motion after voting against it yesterday. Five GOP senators were unable to vote because they’re quarantined due to the coronavirus: Sens. Cory Gardner (CO), Rick Scott (FL), Mike Lee (UT), Mitt Romney (UT), and Rand Paul (KY) ― who tested posted for the virus. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was in attendance and voted against the motion after missing Sunday’s vote for a virtual town hall he held in Vermont as part of his presidential campaign.
Much like the Sunday afternoon vote, the Monday afternoon vote wasn’t on passage of the underlying bill. Rather, it was on a cloture motion on the motion to proceed, which would’ve allowed for up to 30 hours of debate before a vote on the motion to proceed. The Senate would’ve then had to vote on another cloture motion (and potentially go through a further 30 hours of debate) before a vote on passage of the underlying bill. The Senate can bypass all of those procedural votes and debate at any time if there is unanimous consent to move forward.
It's unclear whether the Senate will attempt to advance debate again, and it may not reconvene for another vote until a deal is reached.
UPDATE - 3/23/20 (12:30pm EDT): The Senate will soon re-vote on a procedural motion to continue debate on the “phase 3” coronavirus economic relief bill as bipartisan negotiations about that bill continue off the floor.
UPDATE 3/22/20 (11:30pm EDT): The Senate will reconvene at 12pm EDT Monday. Negotiations are ongoing and votes are expected after 9am, although when they will occur is unclear because Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) objected to a request by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to hold a re-vote on the failed cloture motion at 9:45am.
UPDATE - 3/22/20 (10:30pm EDT): The Senate will vote again on the cloture motion on the motion to proceed to the "phase 3" coronavirus economic relief bill at 9:45am EDT Monday. It's unclear whether an agreement to move forward with the bill will be reached by then, although negotiations are continuing.
Countable's original article appears below.
Senate Democrats on Sunday voted to filibuster a motion that would’ve allowed negotiations over the “phase 3” coronavirus (COVID-19) economic relief package to continue while 30 hours of procedural debate time elapsed ahead of what Republicans hoped would be a passage vote Monday.
The vote wasn’t on passage of the package itself, the text of which has been the subject of bipartisan negotiations for the last three days. Rather, it was on a cloture motion on a motion to proceed, which is a parliamentary vote designed to avoid a “talking filibuster” from occurring and delaying proceedings. Cloture motions require a 60 vote threshold to succeed, so it is often considered to be “legislative filibuster”.
Sunday’s vote failed 47-47 margin with all Democrats opposed, after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) switched his vote from yes to no so that he would have the parliamentary power to bring the motion back up for reconsideration at a later time. Five Republican senators were unable to vote because they’re in a coronavirus quarantine and the Senate’s rules don’t permit remote voting: Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Rick Scott (R-FL), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Mitt Romney (R-UT). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was in Vermont holding a virtual campaign event.
If the motion had been successful, the Senate could’ve used up to 30 hours of debate ahead of the next procedural vote, which itself could’ve been followed by another vote on a cloture motion as late as Wednesday. The Senate could unanimously agree to waive those procedural hurdles and go directly to passage at any time, and could still do so if an agreement is reached.
If Congress is able to reach a bipartisan agreement, the “phase 3” coronavirus economic relief package is expected to include several high-level elements:
- Direct cash payments to Americans;
- Forgivable loans to small businesses to cover payroll, employee leave, rent, and other expenses;
- Relief for distressed companies in hard hit sectors of the U.S. economy such as air travel & hospitality;
- Expanded unemployment insurance with waivers of the ordinary requirements that applicants look for work or go through a waiting period to get benefits; and
- Funding for hospitals & healthcare providers.
Senate Republicans introduced the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (S. 3548) on Thursday as a framework for the ensuing negotiations. The bill has evolved in several areas as a result of the bipartisan negotiations in the last several days:
- The phase-in provision, which limited recovery checks to $600 for people with small tax burdens, has been removed so those people could receive up to $1,200 per person. (The phase out provisions, which begin gradually at $75,000 for individual taxpayers & phase out entirely at $99,000 remain in the bill.)
- Forgivable loans for small businesses to cover payroll, leave, rent, other related expenses increased from $300 billion to $350 billion.
- Increased funding for hospitals up to a total of $100 billion, including $70 billion to be distributed by the Dept. of Health & Human Services (HHS).
As the Senate’s negotiations continue, Democrats are requesting more restrictions on the relief funding for large corporations along with more transparency over allocations from the fund, student loan debt relief, and protections against “eviction, foreclosure or forbearance.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) ― whose chamber has been on recess for more than a week and has so far left the bipartisan negotiations to Senate Democrats & Republicans ― warned on Sunday that “we’ll be introducing our own bill and hopefully it’ll be compatible with what they discussed in the Senate.” The as-yet undrafted House bill would likely include provisions to accommodate Democratic lawmakers like Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), who reportedly said on a caucus-wide conference call Thursday that the “phase 3” coronavirus relief bill “is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”
The House's Democratic leaders previously said they would wait to reconvene the chamber until they receive the "phase 3" bill from the Senate after giving members 24 hours notice. So far, Democratic leaders haven't indicated how soon they would bring the chamber back to vote on their own bill or when that legislation would be drafted.
What were "phase 1" & "phase 2"?
- "Phase one" was the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (H.R 6074), which provided $8.3 billion to fund acquisition of medical supplies and the development of treatments & vaccines. It passed Congress with bipartisan support in both chambers and was signed into law.
- "Phase two" was the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), which ensured the availability of free coronavirus testing, provided for paid leave under certain circumstances, and expanded food aid & unemployment insurance benefits during the outbreak. It passed Congress with bipartisan support in both chambers and was signed into law.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / Gwengoat)
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