BREAKING: Senate Democrats block coronavirus stimulus package

The Hill reports Senate Democrats on Sunday blocked a coronavirus stimulus package from moving forward as talks on several key provisions remain stalled.

Senators voted 47-47 on advancing a “shell” bill, a placeholder that the text of the stimulus legislation would have been swapped into, falling short of the three-fifths threshold needed to advance the proposal.

Hopes of a quick stimulus deal quickly unraveled on Sunday as the four congressional leaders and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to break the impasse. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also delayed the procedural vote for three hours as they tried to get a deal.

Democratic senators argue that the GOP bill includes several “non-starters” and walks back areas of agreement, such as expanding unemployment insurance, they thought they had reached with Republicans.

They emerged from a closed-door lunch fuming over the bill circulated by Republicans and called for McConnell to hold off on the 3 p.m. cloture vote.

“We are pleading with McConnell not to call this vote,” Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said after the lunch. “It’s a serious mistake. We have not negotiated this to the point of agreement yet.”

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who is up for reelection in a deeply red state, said that the Senate needed to be “as unified as possible.”

“We don’t need split votes,” he said.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) added that the proposal put forward by Republicans was “totally inadequate.”

That resulted in McConnell delaying the vote to 6 p.m.

The vote eventually moved forward with five GOP senators absent. Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) announced Sunday morning he had tested positive for the coronavirus and would self-quarantine. That led to two Republican colleagues he had interacted with, Utah Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, announcing they would also self-quarantine and miss the vote.

Republican Sens. Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Rick Scott (Fla.) had previously said they would self-quarantine as a precaution that was unrelated to Paul’s announcement.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the bill includes “problematic” provisions and that McConnell should have made the negotiations include both chambers and the White House from the beginning.

“Unfortunately, the legislation has not improved enough in the past three hours,” he said.

UPDATE: Schumer has tweeted:

We voted no on the McConnell-GOP bill because among other problems it includes huge bailouts without protections for people and workers and without accountability, and because it shortchanges our hospitals and healthcare workers who need our help.

These changes need to be made.