Oct. 21 (UPI) -- The Senate on Wednesday failed to pass an updated "skinny" COVID-19 relief package criticized by Democrats as being filled with "poison pills."
The chamber voted 51-44 in favor of the legislation, short of the 60 votes needed to pass. The vote was largely symbolic as senators expected it to fail.
The bill would have provided greater unemployment benefits, more money for COVID-19 vaccine development and contact tracing, and about $100 billion for schools.
It was nearly identical to the measure unanimously rejected last month, when Senate Democrats said it didn't do enough to help Americans and businesses and was riddled with "poison pills."
Democrats have sought a larger relief package similar to the $2.2 trillion measure passed months ago by the House.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are making progress on negotiations for the next round of coronavirus relief, but several GOP senators have indicated an unwillingness to consider a larger package.
NBC News quoted unidentified sources saying Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told caucus members during a closed-door lunch Tuesday that he has urged the White House against striking such a deal with Democrats.
A separate effort by McConnell, who is up for re-election next month, to pass a $250 billion extension for the Paycheck Protection Program on Tuesday also failed as Democrats rejected the measure as insufficient.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said both measures were "designed to fail" and are purely intended to give "political cover" to vulnerable Republicans in the Nov. 3 election.
"The truth is, because [McConnell] can't pass anything on the floor, he is resorting to a series of political stunts. That's all. Everyone knows it," Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
McConnell countered that "Democratic leaders have spent months holding out for a long far-left wish list of non-COVID-related priorities and restricting additional aid until they get it."
During the private Senate Republican policy luncheon, USA Today reported, McConnell acknowledged there aren't enough GOP votes to pass a larger relief package and urged the White House to refuse to make a deal.