Senate Republicans are apparently struggling to find 51 GOP votes for a COVID-19 relief bill

Mitch McConnell
(Image credit: 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

The Senate is getting back to work Tuesday after its August recess, and along with averting a government shutdown at the end of September, their agenda includes trying to pass a COVID-19 economic relief package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have agreed on a tentative plan to avoid a shutdown, but coronavirus relief talks are at an impasse. The House passed a $3.4 trillion package in May and the White House doesn't want the price tag to top $1 trillion, maybe $1.5 trillion.

"Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other top Senate Republicans have been scrambling to round up votes for a narrow economic stimulus package they could put on the floor and hammer Democrats for opposing," Politico reports, but their "gambit may fall short," since "McConnell doesn't even have 51 votes for the Republican proposal, according to GOP senators and aides, let alone the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster."

Some Senate Republicans want the narrow $500 billion bill to include language related to "school choice," while others say they are alarmed at the sharply rising federal deficit and believe the U.S. economy will recover without any extra aid.

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McConnell said last week he doesn't "know if there will be another package in the next few weeks or not," adding, "It's harder to do now because we've moved closer and closer to an election." But "the inability to get 51 GOP votes would be a big defeat for the White House and Senate GOP leadership," Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer argue at Politico's Playbook newsletter. They are also "skeptical of all the 'we-decided-not-to-shut-it-down' talk" from Pelosi and Mnuchin, pointing out that nobody actively plans to shut down the government, and "we don't think we've seen the last frame of this movie yet — nor do many in the Capitol and White House."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.