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Scaled-back Republican stimulus plan fails in the Senate

Mitch McConnell.
Mitch McConnell.Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Thursday failed to advance their substantially scaled-back stimulus plan amid opposition by Democrats who called the measure inadequate, further darkening the already dim prospects that Congress will enact another economic recovery measure to address the toll of the coronavirus pandemic before November’s election.

After months of struggling to overcome deep internal divisions over the scope of another relief package, Republicans presented a near-united front in support of their latest plan, while Democrats opposed it en masse, denying it the 60 votes it would have needed to advance.

The result was never in doubt, and Republicans held the vote largely in an effort to foist blame on Democrats for the lack of progress on a compromise.

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The 52-47 vote was mostly along party lines, with Democrats uniformly in opposition and one Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, joining them in seeking to block the measure from advancing.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said of the Democrats before the procedural vote, “They can tell American families they care more about politics than helping them,” adding, “Senators who want to move forward will vote yes. They will vote to advance this process so they can shape it into a bipartisan product and make a law for the American people.”

The plan, which slashed billions of dollars from the original $1 trillion Republican proposal unveiled in July, included federal aid for unemployed workers, small businesses, schools and vaccine development.

But Democrats, who have refused to accept any proposal less than $2.2 trillion, argued that it did little to address the economic devastation of the pandemic.

It did not include another round of stimulus checks for U.S. taxpayers or aid to state and local governments, omissions that cut down the overall price tag of the legislation in an effort to appease fiscal conservatives. And while it would have revived weekly federal jobless benefits that lapsed at the end of July, it set them at $300 — half the original amount.

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Democrats are pressing to reinstitute the full $600 payment.

“This bill is not going to happen because it is so emaciated, so filled with poison pills; it is designed to fail,” Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, said on the Senate floor. “It’s insufficient. It’s completely inadequate.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has been a point man in negotiations with Democrats on a recovery package, cast doubt Wednesday on whether any agreement could be reached, saying he was not sure whether there was still a chance.

“We’ll see,” Mnuchin said. “I hope there is. It’s important to a lot of people out there.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.