After weeks of entirely undeserved attention (presumably because the actual coronavirus stimulus negotiations had totally stalled), the U.S. Senate refused to act on a Republican “skinny stimulus” bill, which fell eight votes short of the 60 needed to invoke cloture on a strict party-line vote, with only Rand Paul breaking ranks to vote “nay.” Its designer Mitch McConnell reportedly got what he wanted: a bill so puny in size and structure that it could be supported even by his conference’s fiscal hawks (except for Paul, who has repeatedly opposed doing anything at all on this front). This allows vulnerable Republicans on the campaign trail to claim they voted for pandemic relief and stimulus but the mean old socialist Democrats blocked it.
While some credulous observers may express optimism that this ploy could revivify the bipartisan negotiations being conducted earlier between congressional Democratic leaders and the White House, the truth is the “skinny stimulus” greatly increased the already-enormous distance between the two parties, as reflected by Chuck Schumer’s contemptuous remarks about it (via The Hill):
“It is laden with poison pills. Provisions our colleagues know Democrats would never support to guarantee the bill’s failure. The truth of the matter is the Republicans and the Republican leader don’t want to pass a bill too many on the hard right in the Senate and outside it would be angry” with, Schumer said.
The bill contained nothing for state and local governments (a trillion-dollar Democratic priority), nothing for election assistance, little for small businesses, and school assistance tainted by private-school subsidies demanded by Ted Cruz. It had no second stimulus check for individuals. Much of its bulk was devoted to a liability shield for corporations and non-profit institutions that most Democrats either oppose or would accept only in exchange for the kind of massive spending commitments the skinny bill rejected. Even in the Republican ranks, nobody loved this bill, but just enough of them hated it without passion; it will die an unmourned and unremembered death.