A massive funding package to combat the impact of coronavirus did not get enough votes in a procedural vote Sunday evening at 6:35 p.m., though voting continued.
The stalemate came hours after Democratic leaders warned that the bill was not to their liking. And stock futures cratered as the two parties failed to agree on the terms of the package.
“From my standpoint, we’re apart,” House Speaker Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters earlier Sunday.
Efforts to forge a deal and pass the bill took on added urgency as several members of Congress, including GOP Sen. Rand Paul, tested positive for the coronavirus. Other Republican senators who had been in contact with Paul, including Mitt Romney of Utah, quarantined as a precaution.
The key Senate vote, originally scheduled for 3 p.m. ET Sunday, was moved 6 p.m. President Donald Trump started addressing the media around 6, as well.
“Leader McConnell had to postpone his 3 p.m. cloture vote on the motion to proceed because, thanks to Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats, he did not have the 60 votes required,” Pelosi said in a statement Sunday.
Congressional aides said that pressure to come to a deal quickly could force the two parties to come to a resolution sooner rather than later. One of those aides said Republicans and Democrats were still working to negotiate a deal that both sides could agree on by the 6 p.m. vote. Yet as of late Sunday afternoon, it remained unclear whether a deal was achievable.
Senate Republicans last week rolled out a roughly $1 trillion proposal after working closely with the administration, in a bid to slow the potentially catastrophic impact of the coronavirus on the economy. More than 26,000 have tested positive for the illness in the United States, a number that is expected to surge as more tests are distributed. The bill included small business loans, direct payments for individuals and billions in aid for industries like airlines whose businesses have been hit hard by the virus and efforts to stop its spread.
Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic advisor, said Saturday that the bill could end up pumping $2 trillion into the economy through government spending and Federal Reserve action.
Senate Republicans and Democrats worked all weekend on a revised bill, working towards to goal of a formal vote on Monday. But by Sunday, there were still disagreements, with Democrats arguing the bill shortchanges workers.
“I oppose this bill as it currently stands and am urging Republicans to return to the negotiating table so we can reach an agreement that does much more to support the workers, families, and communities on the front lines of this pandemic,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
The proposed bill now sets aside an up to $500 billion fund to support “severely distressed business.” That includes $58 billion for passenger and cargo airlines and $17 billion for businesses critical to maintaining national security, according to a draft bill obtained by CNBC.
A previous draft bill allocated $150 billion for distressed businesses, in addition to $58 billion for airlines and cargo carriers.
While the new proposed bill adds certain restrictions that Democrats had pushed for – like a ban on stock buybacks while a loan is outstanding and maintaining payroll “to the extent practicable” – those concessions were not enough. Trump reiterated Sunday evening that he did not want stock buybacks permitted in the measure.
“In the midst of an unprecedented national crisis, Republicans can’t seriously expect us to tell people in our communities who are suffering that we shortchanged hospitals, students, workers, and small businesses but gave big corporations hundreds of billions of dollars in a secretive slush fund,” said Murray, whose home state is one of the hardest-hit by the disease’s outbreak.
Murray is ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. The panel is pushing for a number of additions, including more funding for hospitals and medical equipment. It also wants the Department of Labor to create a regulatory standard protecting frontline workers, like nurses, during crises like the coronavirus.
Meantime, the Democratic-led House Appropriations Committee previously criticized the Republican draft bill for “lack of supplemental funding for federal, state and local response.”
Airline companies were also disappointed in the bill, which offered aid primarily in the form of loan and loan guarantees, rather than the mix of cash grants and loans they have sought.
The bill also left open the possibility of the government participating in the gains of its loans, including through warrants, stock options or equity. Trump has before said he would not be opposed to taking an equity stake in companies the government extends aid to.
The CEOs of American, Delta, Southwest, United and others on Saturday said the industry would have to furlough workers without $29 billion in “worker payroll protection grants.” If they receive that amount in that form, they said they wouldn’t furlough employees through Aug. 31.
Executives over the last week have sent out a series of grim letters to employees and congressional leadership, saying if the government doesn’t act fast, it could cost jobs.
Several unions also came out against the bill, urging more specific provisions to protect jobs.
“The Machinists will not support any relief package that does not put airline workers first,” said International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers’ president, Robert Martinez Jr. in a release. The union represents some 140,000 airline workers. “Unlike the bank bailout, the airline industry did not create this crisis.”