WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate split along party lines last week on a $500 billion Republican-backed coronavirus-relief bill, and Alabama’s senators were no exception.
Sixty votes were needed to pass the bill, but the vote was 51 for and 44 against. Democrats complained there wasn’t enough money in the bill, including its lack of $1,200 in direct payments to individuals.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R, voted for it. Sen. Doug Jones, D, voted against it.
The measure, which died Oct. 21, included funds to expand unemployment benefits, extend the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses, build protective features at K-12 schools, expand COVID-19 testing, advance vaccine development and take other steps to deal with the pandemic.
But Democrats called it small-bore compared to a $2.2 trillion measure recently passed by the House that also had included the direct payments, aid for renters and homeowners, expanded child tax credits and funding for postal operations, election security and the 2020 Census.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the package would provide “half a trillion dollars of good that Congress can do right now through programs that Democrats do not even say they oppose. American families deserve for us to agree where we can, make law and push huge amounts of money out the door while Washington continues arguing over the rest.”
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the “emaciated” bill “fails to include robust unemployment insurance, enough funding for schools and universities, or funding for rental, housing or nutrition assistance. It does nothing for the census or our elections” and is “totally inadequate when it comes to funding for testing and tracing, especially given the new spike in cases and … that a second wave may be upon us.”
The Senate had another notable vote last week, which allowed scaling back anti-poverty investments by banks, while the House was in recess.
Scaling Back Anti-Poverty Investments by Banks
Voting 43 for and 48 against, the Senate on Oct. 19 cleared the way for a Trump administration regulatory rollback that would allow banks to skirt anti-poverty objectives of the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act.
A civil rights law, the CRA gives banks incentives to issue loans for economic development and affordable housing in low- and moderate-income communities where they have branches. In part, the rollback would allow banks to comply with the law by meeting broad criteria rather than specific social and economic obligations in poor communities.
On this vote, the Senate turned back a Democratic-sponsored measure (HJ Res 90) to block the new rule, which has not yet taken effect.
Chris Coons, D-Del., said the CRA “is a landmark civil rights and anti-redlining law created to improve the welfare of low- and moderate-income Americans,” which has “resulted in trillions of dollars invested in low- and moderate-income communities.”
Michael Crapo, R-Idaho, said the CRA has “failed to improve economic outcomes for underserved groups, including minorities and low- and moderate-income communities. … Importantly, the (Trump) rule does not change” the federal “obligation to fight discrimination and illegal practices.”
A yes vote opposed a weakening of the Community Reinvestment Act.
Voting yes: None
Voting no: Shelby
Not voting: Jones