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Senate returns to Washington with no coronavirus aid package deal

A flag flies outside the U.S. Capitol Building. (STOCK PHOTO)

The members of the U.S. Senate return to Washington D.C. on Tuesday for what is expected to be a tumultuous post-Labor Day stretch. Negotiations on another coronavirus relief package failed before the Senate recessed in early August and, as of Monday, there were no signs that the impasse has been resolved with the November elections only 56 days away.

While the Senate is set to reconvene Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives is not expected to return in full until next week. If a deal can not be reached quickly, it is possible that nothing will get done before election day on Nov. 3.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has said that another coronavirus aid package is necessary and most Republicans agree, but they balk at the size of the package that House Democrats passed in the HEROES Act back in May. While the Republican relief package proposal was more than $1 trillion, the HEROES Act was more than $4 trillion and contained provisions that Republicans objected to.

President Donald Trump was asked by reporters why he did not invite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, to the White House to reach a deal on increasing stimulus into the economy.

“They don’t want to make a deal because they think it’s good for politics if they don’t make a deal,” Trump replied. “I know who I’m dealing with. I don’t need to meet with them to be turned down. … If I thought it would make a difference, I would do it in a minute.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, is expected to bring a $500 billion targeted package to a vote this week. Republicans are predicting that Democratic leadership will oppose the comparatively small relief package.

Due to the 60 vote filibuster rule in the Senate, the GOP coronavirus aid package can not pass the Senate without Democratic support. If the bill fails, then it is possible that both sides will retreat into their partisan talking points and not move on a coronavirus aid package before the Nov. 3 election.

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The Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program expired early last month. Without additional relief funding many businesses, particularly in the already overbuilt restaurant segment could close permanently in the coming months.

The unemployed saw their compensation checks decrease due to the expiration of the CARES Act. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, has criticized McConnell for adjourning the Senate in August without passing a coronavirus relief bill.

“Mitch McConnell’s decision to adjourn the Senate without any further efforts to fulfill the Senate’s obligation to the American public during a healthcare and economic crisis demonstrates an unconscionable failure of leadership,” Jones said in a statement at the time. “Congress acted swiftly in March as the pandemic took hold and every American who put their lives on hold and stayed home for weeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 did so out of a patriotic duty and a belief that it would give our government leaders time to implement a plan to get this virus under control. Now, it’s been five months and not only do we still have no national strategy, our nation is facing some of the highest rates of coronavirus spread in the world.”

The previous coronavirus aid packages have all been paid for with deficit spending and have added trillions to the debt.

The struggling U.S. Postal Service is also expected to be a continuing topic in Washington. Democrats are insisting that the USPS needs additional funds to help pay for mail-in voting. Republicans insist that the USPS has CARES Act funds that it still has not spent and does not need another bailout.

Democrats also oppose reforms and cost efficiency measures proposed by Postmaster Louis DeJoy.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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