What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Why congressional stalemate over pandemic relief won’t end anytime soon

Congressional efforts to pass a new pandemic relief bill remain stalled, and a slimmed-down proposal from Senate Republicans failed to clear procedural vote Thursday. Democratic and Republican leaders both blamed the other side for the gridlock. Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the bill and why the prospects for passing legislation before Election Day are grim.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congress tonight remains stuck over how to address the economic crisis of the pandemic.

    As we noted earlier, there were not enough votes in the Senate to advance a Republican proposal, one that was not as far-reaching as other ideas that were floated in recent months.

    This morning, the Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate blamed the other side for the gridlock.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky:

    Republicans have tried repeatedly to build on the CARES Act and get more help out the door to American families. Democrats have blocked us at every turn. They have invented different excuses each time.

  • Sen. Chuch Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    But this bill is not going to happen, because it is so emaciated, so filled with poison pills, so partisanly designed. It was designed to fail.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And our Yamiche Alcindor has been tracking progress on COVID relief, she joins me now with an update.

    So, hello, Yamiche.

    So, this bill went down to defeat, not enough votes. Tell us what was in it and what happened when it came up for a procedural vote.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, Judy, this is really the latest push to get some sort of coronavirus relief to Americans who are badly in need of some sort of help.

    This was a GOP effort. It was expected to fail. And it did fail, as expected. It failed along party lines. So, every Democrat in the Senate voted against this bill, along with Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. He also voted against this.

    But all the Republicans voted in line, lockstep with Senator Mitch McConnell. Now, this is seen as somewhat of a success for Mitch McConnell, even though it failed, because, for weeks and months, Senate Republicans in their own caucus couldn't figure out how to get together and back something.

    But this was called the skinny GOP plan. And I want to walk you through why it was called skinny, to walk through what the bill — what was in the bill.

    You had $650 billion in total spending, but there was only $300 billion in new spending, because the bill would have repurposed roughly $350 billion in previously approved spending. There was also $300 in weekly enhanced unemployment benefits. This would be to replace the $600 that expired in July — on July 31.

    There was also money for small businesses, coronavirus testing and schools. But there were no new stimulus checks. And there was no new aid for state and local governments.

    And, essentially, what this was what the Republicans putting up and saying, here's what we could do.

    But it was vastly different, vastly different, Judy, than what Democrats did and what Democrats want. Even in May, when the House passed their bill, it was more than $3 trillion. So, as you can tell, both sides are very far apart.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, what are now the Republicans and Democrats saying about coronavirus relief and the way forward?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, both Democrats and Republicans are essentially pointing fingers at each other and saying, the other party is to blame.

    Senator Mitch McConnell today said that Democrats, they would have wanted to support some of the things in this bill, but that they were essentially holding out for a bigger bill. And we also heard from Democrats essentially saying that Mitch McConnell wanted political cover, and, as a result, he was pushing forward this bill.

    All of this really goes to say that the talks that stalled in August over a new coronavirus bill, they're still — they're still stalled. And suggestions are now that Congress could actually adjourn and leave without having a new deal.

    And Senator Marco Rubio, Lisa, who is on vacation this week, she flagged this. He put out a video essentially saying: Sorry, American people, we're probably not going to be able to pass any sort of relief for you until after the election.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, you cover the White House.

    Are they saying they may try to do something with regard to COVID relief? And how is this affecting Americans across the country?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Essentially, Americans across the country, who are terrified and scared, and a lot of them jobless, they are not going to be able to get any sort of relief from the federal government anytime soon.

    The White House is talking about doing some sort of executive actions, including putting money toward airline industries, putting money towards school vouchers.

    I talked to a White House source today, though, that said that the — many of the things that they want to do, including payroll tax and other things, that it's severely limited, because they're the executive branch.

    So the Congress is the place that controls the purse. So, essentially, what we have here is a stalemate, where Democrats — Americans, I should say, are left in the wind, and they're the ones who are struggling.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just extraordinary to see nothing — nothing happening.

    Yamiche Alcindor reporting for us.

    Thank you, Yamiche.

Listen to this Segment