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Senate Republicans eye Thursday vote on new Covid-19 relief measure

Senate Republicans eye Thursday vote on new Covid-19 relief
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Senate Republicans will introduce their new coronavirus relief bill Tuesday and are eyeing a vote later this week, after weeks of stalled negotiations between the White House and Democratic leaders over an aid package.

The new, more narrow GOP proposal will provide $300 in increased weekly federal unemployment benefits through Dec. 27, additional money for the Paycheck Protection Program and liability protections for schools and businesses as they try to reopen, a top priority for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The cost of the package is estimated at $500 billion, but the measure also proposes rescinding hundreds of billions in previously appropriated funds to hold down the costs.

Senate Republicans are increasingly confident that 51 of the 53 members of the GOP caucus will support the measure and leadership is tentatively planning a Thursday vote, according to Republican aides.

“It does not contain every idea our party likes,” McConnell said of the new bill. “I am confident Democrats will feel the same. Yet Republicans believe the many serious differences between our two parties should not stand in the way of agreeing where we can agree and making law that helps our nation.”

While Republicans acknowledge that their proposal likely will not clear the 60-vote threshold to move forward in the Senate, they view the effort as a way to pressure Democrats into caving on their demands.

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Democratic leaders and the White House failed to come to agreement on a relief measure during the August recess, and Congress is only in session for a few weeks before members go home to campaign.

Even before the Republican plan was introduced, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) panned the “emaciated” GOP proposal, saying in a joint statement that it is “headed nowhere” and only intended to help vulnerable Senate Republicans with a “check the box vote.”

Democrats have been pushing the more than $3 trillion relief bill the House approved in May.

“If anyone doubts McConnell’s true intent is anything but political, just look at the bill,” Pelosi and Schumer said. “This proposal is laden with poison pills Republicans know Democrats would never support. “

The GOP proposal will also include a two-year tax credit for donations to scholarships, grants and other organizations, after a push from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas.). In addition, the proposal includes $15 billion for child care grants, $20 billion in farm aid, $500 million for fisheries. It would also forgive small business loans up to $150,000.

The proposal would also provide $10 billion to the U.S. Postal Service, by converting a loan into a grant.

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