WASHINGTON — Alabama’s senators split along party lines this week as the Senate failed to reach 60 votes needed to advance a Republican-sponsored coronavirus relief package.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R, voted to advance the bill, and Sen. Doug Jones, D, voted against it. Overall, the vote, held Thursday, was 52 for and 47 against.
Consisting of $300 billion in new spending and $350 billion in recycled funds, S178 stopped well short of a competing $3.4 trillion measure passed by House Democrats in May.
The Senate bill would fund supplemental unemployment benefits of $300 per week through the end of 2020 and a second round of Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans for small businesses, while erecting a shield against lawsuits for businesses taking reasonable steps to protect against COVID-19 exposure.
The bill omitted aid passed by the House, such as $1 trillion to help states and localities avert layoffs, $200 billion in hazard pay for essential workers and $100 billion to help tenants pay rent.
In part, the Senate bill would provide $70 billion for K-12 education, including tax credits for private-school tuition; $31 billion for developing COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics; $29.4 billion for the U.S. military; $29 billion for colleges and universities; $25 billion for public health services; $20 billion for farmers and ranchers; $15.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health; $10 billion for the U.S. Postal Service and $5 billion in aid to child care centers.
John Thune, R-S.D., said: “We may need to spend more” for coronavirus relief in the future. “This bill is simply an attempt to direct relief funds to some of the biggest priorities right now, like helping the hardest hit small businesses weather this crisis and providing more resources for testing, treatment and vaccines. These are areas we should all agree on.”
Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the bill “does not help renters keep a roof over their heads or American families put food on the table. It shortchanges health care and education. It does not provide a dime to protect essential state and local services. It is laden with poison pills … to guarantee the bill’s failure. The truth of the matter is, Republicans … don’t want to pass a bill.”
KEY VOTES AHEAD
Congress this week is set to debate legislation to fund the government on a stopgap basis when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.