Five Senate Democrats joined Republicans Tuesday in a vote on extending small-business Paycheck Protection Program loans without a broader COVID-19 stimulus deal.
The defections bring Republicans in the Senate within striking distance of 60 votes needed to pass legislation, though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insists on a larger package.
In a “show” vote called by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the five Democrats broke with party leaders giving a 57-40 division in favor of McConnell’s preference for smaller bills.
Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) backed McConnell’s position. All except Hassan are seeking re-election Nov. 3, with Peters and Jones considered most vulnerable.
One Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and a moderate Democrat, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, did not vote, meaning Republicans are within one to three votes of 60.
The vote was staged as a motion to table, in which McConnell motioned to table the PPP legislation, then voted against tabling it. The maneuver maintains his ability to call another vote on the legislation.
The Senate then held a vote on considering a $3 trillion Democratic bill that passed the House in May, which Republican senators blocked.
On Wednesday, McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to propose another vote on a “skinny” Republican relief bill with additional COVID-19 funds. Senate Democrats blocked a similar measure last month.
Pelosi and White House negotiators continued negotiations this week on a broader bill without a breakthrough.
For months, Republicans have rejected sending a large amount of aid to state and local governments, arguing it would bail out mismanaged Democratic states and cities. Democrats, meanwhile, reject McConnell’s insistence that any bill contain liability protections for businesses.
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