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McConnell, Senate GOP declare House Democrats' $3T coronavirus bill 'dead on arrival'

The Hill logo The Hill 5/12/2020 Jordain Carney
John Barrasso, Todd Young, Mitch McConnell, Roy Blunt, Joni Ernst standing next to a man in a suit and tie: McConnell, Senate GOP declare House Democrats' $3T coronavirus bill 'dead on arrival' © Greg Nash McConnell, Senate GOP declare House Democrats' $3T coronavirus bill 'dead on arrival'

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and members of the Senate GOP caucus panned the roughly $3 trillion House coronavirus bill unveiled on Tuesday, declaring it "dead on arrival" in the Senate.

McConnell, speaking to reporters after a closed-door caucus meeting, said Republicans would "insist on narrowly targeted legislation."

"What you've seen in the House [from] Nancy is not something designed to deal with reality, but designed to deal with aspirations. This is not a time for aspirational legislation, this is a time for practical response to the coronavirus pandemic," McConnell said, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican senator, called the House bill a "payoff" to Pelosi's constituents, vowing that it will "never pass the Senate."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the House package "dead on arrival."

House Democrats unveiled their latest relief legislation on Tuesday, with the bill carrying a roughly $3 trillion price tag. The bill, which could be voted on in the House as soon as Friday, includes funding for food assistance, state and local governments, another round of direct stimulus payments to individuals and hazard pay for essential workers, among other provisions.

But the bill effectively hit a buzzsaw among Senate Republicans, whose support would be needed to even get the bill scheduled for a vote on the floor, much less to pass the measure.

Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican in the upper chamber, argued that the House bill was not designed to pass, calling it a "messaging exercise."

"It wasn't a sincere effort, or meaningful effort, to address a crisis that is being faced by the American people, but it clearly is an effort to try and create talking points for the 2020 election," Thune said.

The Senate GOP leader and Pelosi are taking vastly different approaches to a potential fifth coronavirus bill.

McConnell has said that he does not yet see an urgency for the Senate to act, making it increasingly likely that the chamber will leave for a weeklong Memorial Day recess without taking action on an additional bill.

Even as House Democrats were unveiling their proposal, McConnell instead discussed from the Senate floor how he and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) are working on a bill to expand liability protections for employers - a "red line" for the GOP leader in any fifth coronavirus bill.

McConnell indicated that he first wants to come to an understanding with the White House that additional action is needed before he opens negotiations with Democrats.

"I'm in discussion, we all are, with the administration. If we reach a decision along with the administration to move to another phase, that'll be the time to interact with the Democrats," he said.

Democrats have hammered the GOP leader for his approach, arguing that with the coronavirus still causing economic havoc, it is not the time for a "pause."

"We have to put money in the pockets of the American people, recognizing the pain, the agony that they are feeling. To those who would suggest a pause, I'll say the hunger doesn't take a pause, the rent doesn't take a pause, the hardship doesn't take a pause," Pelosi said during an appearance on MSNBC's "All In with Chris Hayes."

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