On Thursday, September 10, 2020, the Senate voted 52 to 47 on a slimmed-down coronavirus relief package that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had released earlier in the week. The Senate requires at least 60 votes to clear the filibuster hurdle but the vote fell short.
The legislation, formally a substitute to S.178 (a previous bill dealing with foreign policy issues but used here as a parliamentary maneuver), would offer approximately half of what Senator McConnell had released at the end of July. The July 27 HEALS Act was projected to cost approximately $1 trillion, while this bill costs approximately $500 billion. Most significantly, the September bill does not offer any state fiscal relief except for some limited assistance on education, child care, and a few other narrow priorities. The package would provide an additional $300 a week in unemployment compensation, cutting in half the $600 a week help that ended in July. It includes the same $105 billion for K-12 and higher education but includes some more controversial provisions around school vouchers and ties much of the school money to an actual reopening of schools—a challenge in many communities across the country. It also includes the same $15 billion for child care, with $10 billion tied to COVID-19 related expenses. The child care advocacy community has been asking for a total of $50 billion in total to save the child care industry. The Senate bill would reprogram some unspent funds from the previous small business programs into a new one, includes $16 billion for virus testing and $10 billion for the Postal Service. The bill does not include another round of tax rebates as had been included in the July legislation.
The House legislation (HEROES Act, HR 6800) passed in May was projected to cost approximately $3.2 trillion. Since that point, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has countered with a $2.2 trillion proposal, which Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has rejected, but recent comments (before the latest Senate bill) indicated some Administration openness to a $1.5 trillion package. The Senate vote was a result of Senator McConnell trying to patch together most of his party members. The July bill had never really gathered 50 Republican votes, although they never did take it up for consideration. Now there is a real likelihood of no state relief package before the election, meaning the future of the next relief will be decided by the winners of the presidential and congressional elections.