On Monday Senate Democrats blocked the massive $2 trillion economic stimulus bill from proceeding to a vote for the second time in the last 24 hours. After heated debate on the Senate floor, lawmakers went back to negotiating with many expressing optimism they’ll get something passed early this week.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said a deal was in reach this weekend until House Speaker Nancy Pelosi returned to town Sunday morning wanting a different House bill. McConnell criticized this as a political opportunity to pass “non-germane wish list” items.
“Democrats won’t let us fund hospitals or save small businesses unless they get to dust off the Green New Deal,” said McConnell on the Senate floor.
McConnell argues Democrats’ demands include new emission standards for airlines and tax credits for solar panels.
“This is not a juicy political opportunity, this is a national emergency,” continued McConnell. “This is no time for this nonsense…why does only one side understand that this is urgent?”
But Democrats maintain the bill doesn’t go far enough to help the American people.
“At the top of the list, it includes a large corporate bailout with no protections for workers and virtually no oversight,” says Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “Also very troubling in the bill were significant shortfalls of money that our hospitals, states, cities and medical workers desperately needed.”
News Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tested positive for COVID19 Sunday rattled senators over the weekend, with Republican Senator Jerry Moran reportedly telling colleagues he’d seen Paul at the Senate gym that morning. Paul is facing bipartisan criticism from Democrat and Republicans for continuing to go to the Capitol while awaiting test results, with GOP Sen. Martha McSally tweeting, “No one is too important to disregard guidance to self-quarantine pending test results.”
I couldn't agree more @kyrstensinema. As we ask all Americans to sacrifice their livelihoods and alter their behavior to save lives, we must ourselves model appropriate #coronavirus behavior. No one is too important to disregard guidance to self-quarantine pending test results. https://t.co/0zQx8yrJA4
— Martha McSally (@SenMcSallyAZ) March 23, 2020
Ahead of critical votes, Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) are now self-quarantining because of interactions with Paul in recent days. They join Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Rick Scott (R-FL) who were already in self-quarantine after coming into contact with different individuals who tested positive for the virus.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) revealed Monday morning her husband has also tested positive for the virus and is receiving treatment at a hospital in Virginia.
“We love him very much and pray for his recovery. He is exhausted and sick but a very strong and resilient person,” said Klobuchar in a statement on Medium. “I wanted to let my colleagues and constituents know that since John and I have been in different places for the last two weeks and I am outside the 14-day period for getting sick, my doctor has advised me to not get a test. As everyone is aware, there are test shortages for people who need them everywhere and I don’t qualify to get one under any standard.”
As the virus continues to hit close to home for more and more lawmakers, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rob Portman (R-OH) are leading the bipartisan push for the Senate to vote remotely.
“If we cannot be here, we still need to be able to do it remotely. With the technology we now have, we have the ability to do that,” said Portman on the Senate floor.
McConnell is likely to send senators home once an agreement is reached and the legislation passes. As the House prepares to take up the bill – it’s unclear right now if Speaker Pelosi will call the members back to DC or allow for remote voting.
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