On daily GOP conference calls, Senate Republicans have been discussing their next steps and have been coalescing around their new approach that amounts to a tiny fraction of the $2.2 trillion price tag House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has offered the White House during their stalled negotiations, according to sources on the calls. The White House has rejected the speaker’s price tag, which is down from the $3 trillion-plus bill Pelosi pushed through the House in May.
The Senate GOP’s new goal, sources said, is to ensure that there are 51 votes to demonstrate that a clear majority of the chamber backs the scaled-back approach. With control of the Senate at stake in November, Republicans say, a united front would give them a stronger hand to present to voters as many of their constituents are eager for a new round of stimulus and as millions are still out of work.
But the plan would have virtually no chance of becoming law given stiff opposition from Democrats, who say it doesn’t go far enough.
Still, Republicans are confident they are moving closer to achieving that goal after weeks of disunity about the next phase of stimulus, according to Republican sources.
A sizable number of Republicans revolted over the roughly $1 trillion proposal Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled in late July, but the Kentucky Republican never brought that plan forward for a vote. Now Republicans believe they can win the backing of nearly all of their 53 members for a plan amounting to half the cost.
Even if Republicans succeed in getting 51 votes, the plan would fail to advance since it would require 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster.
And the fight over the next round of stimulus could be rolled into the battle over keeping the government open past September 30, when federal agencies run out of money absent new funding legislation.
With the Senate on recess until next week, the exact timing of the vote on the new GOP plan is unclear. But top Republicans believe that once it’s clear there are 51 votes, McConnell will take the procedural steps necessary to set up a showdown vote to bring the measure to the floor.
Sen. John Barrasso, the No. 3 Senate GOP leader, told reporters Tuesday morning that the Senate GOP plans to hold a procedural vote to take up the pared-down stimulus plan that Republican senators have developed over the August recess. He called that bill a “focused, targeted solution” and said: “That’s the goal — is to come back and vote to move to that.”
The Republican plan would include roughly $10 billion in funding for the US Postal Service — as well as $105 billion for schools and extension of small business loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. While Democrats have called for a renewal of the $600 a week in lapsed jobless benefits, Republicans are pushing for $300 a week for the unemployed.
On a conference call with the House Democratic Caucus on Monday, Pelosi told her members that funding for state and local governments — which Democrats want to fund to the tune of nearly $1 trillion — remains a major sticking point, sources on the call said. The speaker has told her members that she doesn’t think the White House wants a deal that can become law.
After speaking with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows last week, Pelosi rejected the GOP’s approach.
“The Democrats are unified, but the Republicans are in disarray,” Pelosi said in a letter to her colleagues. “Press reports are stating that Mitch McConnell has come down to $500 billion in his proposal and that Mark Meadows is saying that the White House might go to $1.3 trillion. Neither of these proposals would meet the needs of American workers and families.”
On Tuesday, Meadows also suggested that state and local aid remains the biggest hurdle to getting a deal.
“The speaker is still at $915 billion, which is just not a number that’s based in reality,” Meadows said on CNBC.