After two days of talks failed to produce a final bipartisan agreement on an economic stimulus and bailout bill to deal with the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak, Senate Democrats on Sunday evening blocked a procedural move to start work on the bill, as Democrats accused the GOP of putting forth a package which favored business over workers.
"In our caucus there is great unhappiness," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). "This is not a bipartisan proposal, this is a Republican-only proposal."
Democrats accused the GOP of creating a $500 billion "slush fund" for corporate bailouts, arguing there was little transparency which would allow the public to find out what companies were getting federal money.
Democrats also said not enough resources were being put in the bill to help hospitals deal with the strain from the Coronavirus outbreak.
"That's what we're fighting for right now," said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).
60 votes were needed to force an end to debate on a motion to start work on the Coronavirus bill. Republicans only mustered 47.
Update: Dems are voting NO right now on a procedural motion in order to force negotiations to continue.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) March 22, 2020
We need (partial list):
- enough money for hospitals to keep open
- enough money for states to stay solvent
- accountability/transparency on any corporate relief https://t.co/NWaPXllWN2
Republicans were left more than frustrated, as GOP Senators said now was the time for action, not more negotiation and debate.
"The American people are watching this spectacle," said a furious Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who denounced Democrats for 'playing games' by not agreeing to move forward with the GOP bill.
"The Senate must step up," said Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA). "It is time to deliver."
“I hope the Senate can act fast on something,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Republicans were hamstrung somewhat by the absence of five GOP Senators, because of Coronavirus concerns.
On Sunday morning, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tested positive for the Coronavirus - though he had no symptoms of any illness.
That prompted two other Senators, Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, to go into self quarantine, joining Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO).
D Senators blocking emergency assistance to American workers. Markets will tank tomorrow and along with it the savings of millions It’s incomprehensible that in the midst of a national crisis Democrats have chosen to block this bill. Texans need help now #stopthegames— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) March 22, 2020
This is about as pissed off as I’ve seen McConnell on the floor.— Phil Mattingly (@Phil_Mattingly) March 22, 2020
It was not immediately clear what would happen next in the Senate.
“It is unbelievable that Democrats would stall the relief bill,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).
“We're fiddling here,” said Sen. McConnell, as he all but accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of ruining talks for a deal.
“We were doing just fine until that intervention," McConnell said on the Senate floor, visibly irritated.