The Senate, finally back in session after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s long weekend off and hours of confusion about the way forward on the COVID-19 response, determined that it would pass the House paid leave bill quickly Tuesday afternoon and work on the next phase. McConnell wasn’t counting on his fellow Kentucky Republican, Sen. Rand Paul, to throw a wrench in the works—which was ridiculous. It’s Rand Paul. Of course he’s going to throw a tantrum.
Paul is insisting on an amendment that won’t pass—just like he did with the first coronavirus bill—to offset costs of the bill. His insistence meant the Senate couldn’t just pass the House bill by unanimous consent and move on. That means much of Wednesday will be spent on procedural maneuvers for that bill, which may get a vote by the end of the day. Meanwhile, McConnell is turning to the next massive package and doing it in the most politicized way he can by shutting Democrats out of the process.
The White House has asked for a $45.8 billion spending request to bolster federal agencies responding to the pandemic and a $1 trillion economic stimulus package. That package could include direct, means-tested cash payments to individuals, possibly as early as next month, and a $50 billion bailout for airlines, which is a Trump priority. McConnell is shutting House Speaker Pelosi and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer out of the process of drafting this “Phase 3” stimulus bill, instead creating three Republican task forces to draft portions of the bill.
Meanwhile, Schumer and Pelosi are coming up with their own Phase 3 packages, focusing on more assistance to workers and their families, including clawing back the expanded paid leave provisions the White House insisted on curtailing in the current bill.