Senate Democrats have again blocked a coronavirus spending bill, even as U.S. jobless claims on Thursday reached a staggering 16.6 million.
The urgent $250 billion request was meant to shore up the depleting small business fund, but failed to pass the Senate because Democrats wanted an additional $250 billion in aid for small businesses, hospitals, states and food assistance programs.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had hoped Democrats would “not play games” and would pass the clean bill Thursday morning “with speed and bipartisanship” through unanimous consent.
Due to the enormous demand, the original $350 billion program to help businesses stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic is expected to run dry in the near future, according to Fox News.
The stalemate in the Senate comes as a record-breaking number of Americans have filed for unemployment with the economy shutting down nationwide under stay-at-home orders. New jobless numbers out Thursday morning show a total of 16.6 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the last three weeks.
Earlier Thursday, McConnell urged Democrats to pass the clean bill and not “treat working Americans as political hostages.”
“To my Democratic colleagues, please … please … do not block emergency aid you do not even oppose just because you want something more,” McConnell pleaded. “Nobody believes this is the Senate’s last word on COVID-19. We don’t have to do everything right now.”
The Kentucky Republican explained that large comprehensive bills aren’t even allowed under the Senate’s unanimous consent rules. “In fact the posture of needing unanimous consent does not even permit us to try to do everything right now,” he said. “We cannot play games with this crisis.”
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) April 9, 2020
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) blasted the Democrats for blocking the critical aid.
Disappointing and disgusting.
17 million Americans have lost their jobs in three weeks. And yet Democrats just blocked critical aid for small businesses.
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) April 9, 2020
Last month, Democrats twice blocked the emergency coronavirus stimulus bill so they could stuff it with an “ideological wish list” that included collective bargaining powers for unions, increased fuel emissions standards for airlines, an expansion of wind and solar tax credits, student loan debt relief, and election-security funding.
A group of liberal senators are now calling for future coronavirus stimulus packages to include funding for “local journalism.”
“Local news is in a state of crisis that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the senators wrote in a letter to Senate leadership on Wednesday.
Among the letter’s 19 signatories were Democrats Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), as well as Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine).