1 of 2 | Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell speaks to members of the media during a news conference after the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on Monday. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 20 (UPI) -- The Senate will begin voting Tuesday on the first of two standalone coronavirus relief measures up for passage this week, but the Republican bills are expected to fail as Democrats seek a much larger, comprehensive aid package.
The first measure, due for a vote Tuesday, would extend the Paycheck Protection Program sending COVID-19 aid for businesses. Wednesday, the chamber will revote on its $500 billion "skinny" relief package led by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell has lined up the two bills, as well as an expected vote Friday on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, as the Senate's final actions before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Both measures are unanimously opposed by Democrats, who have consistently resisted GOP attempts to separate parts of a comprehensive $2.2 trillion relief package already passed by the House.
With 53 Republicans in the Senate, McConnell will need Democratic help to get the 60 votes needed to pass the bill in the Senate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have been negotiating a larger package for weeks -- one that a significant number of GOP senators have already refused to support.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has dismissed this week's votes on the standalone PPP and "skinny" relief bills as little more than a political stunt. Last month, Democrats blocked a similar $500 billion "skinny" Republican plan.
Democrats have opposed the GOP bill because they say it doesn't go nearly far enough in helping Americans and small businesses hurt by the health crisis. The Republican plan, for example, only brings back a portion of federal enhanced unemployment payments instead of the full $600 per week Democrats have been trying to revive since the first round of aid expired in July.
"The Republican proposal was unacceptable a month ago. It remains unacceptable now even more so that the crisis has gotten even worse," Schumer said in a statement Monday, adding that it "seems to be another attempt at giving Republicans political cover before the election."
"We will see whether our Democratic colleagues in this chamber agree that families deserve nothing rather than something or whether they are ready to let the Senate make law across the huge areas where we do not even disagree," McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday.
Behind the scenes, however, analysts say McConnell is attempting to unite feuding factions as some showed signs of breaking with President Donald Trump on his approach to the pandemic.
Some GOP members objected on Monday when Trump criticized Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top expert on infectious diseases, as a "disaster" and for saying "people are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots."
"Dr. Fauci is one of our country's most distinguished public servants," Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., tweeted Monday. "He has served 6 presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan.
"If more Americans paid attention to his advice, we'd have fewer cases of COVID-19, & it would be safer to go back to school & back to work & out to eat."