McConnell slates October revote on GOP COVID relief plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he’s scheduling a procedural vote on a GOP COVID-19 relief bill next week, saying aid to hard-hit businesses shouldn’t be held up by gridlock involving other aid proposals.

The Kentucky Republican says the first item of Senate business when the chamber returns next Monday will be a procedural vote on a scaled-back aid bill. Democrats filibustered a GOP-drafted aid bill last month and recent talks on a larger deal between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., fell apart this past weekend, probably for good.

“Democrats have spent months blocking policies they do not even oppose. They say anything short of their multi-trillion-dollar wish list, jammed with non-COVID-related demands, is ‘piecemeal’ and not worth doing,” McConnell said in a statement. “And she has worked hard to ensure that nothing is what American families get.”

McConnell’s move appears unlikely to work. The COVID relief debate appears to have gone back to a phase in which the participants have largely given up and are devoting time and effort to political positioning ahead of the election rather than negotiations and compromise.

President Donald Trump continues to agitate for “stimulus,” saying that Capitol Hill Republicans should “go big” rather than the limited approach they’ve been advocating.

Opinion polls show that additional coronavirus relief is a higher priority for most voters than quickly approving Trump’s nomination of Appeals Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. While many Republicans take a skeptical view of the need for more virus relief like special unemployment benefits or direct payments to most taxpayers, some GOP senators in difficult re-election races are eager for more aid.

Under Senate rules, McConnell can call for a re-vote on the September legislation, which was filibustered by Democrats as insufficient. It also doesn’t satisfy Trump, in part because it did not provide for another round of $1,200 direct payments that would go out under his name.

McConnell could also modify the earlier GOP bill.

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