The motion to invoke cloture – limiting the debate – failed to get the necessary three-fifths of the senators present to agree, with 49 votes for and 46 against on Monday afternoon.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced the “absolutely mindless obstruction” by the Democrats, accusing them of “fiddling around with Senate procedure” while the economy floundered and businesses shut down due to pandemic lockdowns across the US.
“The American people have had enough of this nonsense,” McConnell thundered on the Senate floor.
The vote on the $1.8 trillion bill broke mostly along party lines, with Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) the sole yea vote on the Democratic side of the aisle. It was the second time the Senate failed to move the gargantuan aid package forward; a vote on Sunday failed similarly, with 47 votes on either side.
The so-called Phase III stimulus is supposed to provide cash payments to Americans dealing with surprise unemployment as well as loans to companies struggling to make payroll.
Senate Democrats complained the package represented a “slush fund” for big business, accusing Republicans of using the urgency of the crisis to bail out their wealthy donors.
The GOP, on the other hand, slammed the minority party for holding the American people hostage to partisan politics, as the Democrats made ever-growing demands in the Senate talks to include unrelated policy priorities in the bill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has drawn up a competing coronavirus aid bill that, at 1,119 pages, manages to include every item on longstanding Democratic wish lists, most of which have nothing to do with coronavirus but which would benefit from being smuggled along in a must-pass bill.
Because if I'm an American who just got furloughed, my biggest priorities are corporate board diversity, bailing out the post office, the greenhouse gas emissions of flights I can no longer afford to book, and requiring same-day voter registration.
These are all in Pelosi's bill pic.twitter.com/YULqp5rTLf
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) March 23, 2020
While Senate Democrats had initially supported the stimulus, Pelosi announced her competing bill at the eleventh hour, pushing for several of the coronavirus-unrelated provisions to be inserted into the Senate version. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina) hinted at such an outcome as early as Thursday, according to the Hill, reportedly telling his fellow Democrats on a conference call that “This is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”
Pelosi’s mammoth bill includes provisions to bail out the US postal service – one of the few industries likely to thrive under coronavirus-induced quarantine – and mandate “diversity” on the boards of companies receiving stimulus funds. It also shoehorns in same-day voter registration and early voting requirements, as well as collective bargaining for federal employees and carbon-offset requirements for airlines receiving any of the money.
The phonebook-sized legislation veers further into the realm of self-parody with a requirement that airlines provide passengers with information on greenhouse gas emissions.