Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cracked the whip this week on potentially foot-dragging GOP colleagues in an effort to respond quickly as the coronavirus spreads across the country.
After the weekly Republican caucus meeting, McConnell expressed understanding regarding some of his colleagues’ concerns over a recently passed House pandemic response bill, but urged them to “gag and vote for it anyway” in order to quickly aid those affected by the outbreak.
“A number of my members think there are considerable shortcomings in the House bill,” McConnell told reporters following the meeting.
“My counsel to them is to gag and vote for it anyway, even if they they it has some shortcomings, and to address those shortcomings in the bill that we’re in the process of crafting.
“I cannot predict how long we will be here. But we will be here as long as it takes to pass yet another measure beyond the one that came over from the House,” the Kentucky Republican added.
Mitch McConnell on House-passed stimulus bill: “A number of my members think there were considerable shortcomings in the House bill. My counsel to them is to gag and vote for it anyway…and to address those shortcomings in the bill that we’re in the process of crafting.” pic.twitter.com/sxUXajP7Fp
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) March 17, 2020
Negotiated late last week by Democratic House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Trump administration Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the legislation provides nationwide assurance of free and accessible medical testing for the virus, Politico reported.
Approximately $1 billion in food aid, two weeks of guaranteed paid sick leave and increased paid family and medical leave were also worked into the federal government’s initial legislative response to the coronavirus.
Though it was passed on a bipartisan basis in the House by a 363-40 margin Saturday prior to a procedural follow-up vote on Monday, however, some Republicans have raised concerns, particularly regarding the bill’s impact on small businesses.
Something to get the ball rolling, however, would be better than nothing, according to McConnell, and given President Donald Trump’s public guarantee the multi-billion-dollar House package would be signed should it reach his desk, the Senate majority leader called on GOP senators to hold onto their concerns for the upcoming second and third-wave response efforts.
“We’re going to move here in warp speed for the Senate, which almost never does anything quickly,” McConnell said, according to Fox News.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer echoed that sentiment Tuesday from the Senate floor, calling the legislation at hand “essential” despite public disagreements with McConnell regarding how best to move forward with further response efforts:
The first order of business here in the Senate is to take up and pass the recent House bill—today.
It would provide free coronavirus testing, extensions for paid sick leave, food assistance, Medicaid reimbursement, and expanded unemployment insurance.
No more delay. pic.twitter.com/wSqa7C9aQw
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 17, 2020
“The first order of business here in the Senate is to take up and pass the recent House bill, and do it today,” Schumer said.
“I understand that some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle might want to amend the legislation, or have it written differently if they were the ones putting it together.
“But I remind them that Leader McConnell said that he would defer to the agreement between the speaker of the House and Secretary Mnuchin,” Schumer said. “If we change the bill, it’ll go back to the House, be delayed and delay the aid it contains for American families coping with the impacts of the virus.”
“We will have other opportunities to legislate, and there will be a great need for them. But let’s move this now,” the New York Democrat added.
The goal, leaders from both parties assured Tuesday, was for initial response legislation to be delivered to the White House as quickly as possible.
According to Politico, both parties also have plans for more audacious economic stimulus and aid packages.
But such legislation would need to break the 60-vote threshold in order to pass, Fox reported.
“We need to directly help American workers and families face this uncertain period, and particularly we’re examining policy tools to put money directly and quickly into the hands of American families,” McConnell told reporters.
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