Coronavirus Stimulus Bill Fails First Vote in the Senate

A whirlwind weekend effort by Senate lawmakers to push through nearly $2 trillion in fiscal aid to businesses and people adversely affected by shutdowns in response to the coronavirus failed to garner the necessary 60 votes to close debate on the bill to send it to a vote.

The 47-47 vote March 22 on the $1.8 trillion stimulus package, which would create loans to small and large businesses, in addition to $3,000 in cash to families and expanded unemployment benefits, reportedly faced pushback by some Democrats who complained the fiscal package offered too much assistance to corporations compared with direct aid to citizens.

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Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell voted against the bill, a procedural maneuver that would allow him to ask for a re-vote at a later time. The bill voted on was described as a “shell” representing the concept of what the the final negotiated bill would off, presented to clear the procedural cloture vote to speed up the process of passing the final version once it is ready.

In addition, five Senate Republicans, including Rand Paul and Mitt Romney, were unable to vote due to self-quarantine. Paul earlier in the day announced he tested positive for the virus, the first senator to do so.

Senate Democrats were reportedly ready to move ahead with the bill until House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanded changes, indicating House Democrats would compose their own stimulus bill, a duplication of effort that could further complicate efforts to bring fiscal relief to American workers and businesses.

The impasse is a setback to movie theater operators who have pleaded for immediate loan funding to stave off possible bankruptcy. The world’s cineplexes remain shuttered, including all 1,000 AMC Theatres, including 11,000 screens, and Regal Cinemas’ 7,300 screens.

“We don’t have a penny of revenue coming in,” AMC CEO Adam Aron told CNN on March 20.

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