The Senate on Wednesday passed the House's coronavirus legislation to provide sick leave, unemployment help and free testing to Americans, sending the second COVID-19 relief bill to President Trump.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had criticized the legislation negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as having "real shortcomings", but urged his members to "gag and vote for it anyway" to show bipartisan cooperation during the global pandemic.
"This is a time for urgent bipartisan action, and in this case, I do not believe we should let perfection be the enemy of something that will help even a subset of workers," McConnell said Wednesday morning in announcing he'd vote for the House legislation.
The Senate passed the legislation in a 90-8 vote.
Two senators were absent – Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. — because of self-quarantining after exposure to people who tested positive for coronavirus.
The eight senators voting no were all Republicans: Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Tim Scott of South Carolina. Critics said the mandate on small businesses to provide paid sick leave to workers was too much of a hardship when businesses are short on cash and can't wait for a federal tax credit reimbursement.
“Small businesses in my state are closed,” Lankford said after the vote. “…Many small businesses are really struggling with how they're going to pay for this when they have no income coming in right now. They are hearing the promise of a federal reimbursement coming to them, but they don't know when that's coming and they're literally teetering on the edge right now. And they're [saying]: 'Please don't do something that pushes us over the edge.'”
Trump is expected to sign into law the legislation that would provide 14 days of paid sick days to workers affected by the coronavirus, ensure free testing to everyone, including the uninsured, and expand food aid and unemployment dollars to states.