Both of New Hampshire’s U.S. Senators joined their fellow Democrats to block action on an emergency $1.8 trillion coronavirus economic package Sunday night, sparking fears of even deeper declines in the stock market and more anxiety among the American people.
The vote for cloture, which requires 60 senators, was a straight party 47-47 vote. (One reason for the low vote total: five Republican senators have either tested positive for coronavirus or are in self-quarantine due to possible exposure.)
According to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, there had been bipartisan progress leading up to the cloture vote scheduled for 3 pm Sunday. He anticipated final congressional approval on Monday, putting a bill on President Trump’s desk that same day.
Instead, the vote was delayed for hours after a reported intervention by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer informed McConnell that Democrats weren’t going to back the deal after all. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan followed the cues from their party’s leadership and voted against allowing a final vote on what would have been the most expensive economic rescue package in American history.
“This draft bill doesn’t do enough to aid laid-off workers, small biz, health workers & hospitals,” Shaheen said via Twitter. “It also lacks necessary strings attached to stop big corporations from misusing funds. We’ve made progress so let’s keep negotiating & deliver a bill addressing all these priorities.”
“I’m optimistic we can get this done but it needs to happen quickly – Granite Staters are hurting!” Shaheen added.
In a speech on the floor of the Senate, McConnell accused Democrats of playing politics.
“At a time when the country is crying out for bipartisanship and cooperation — and we saw it over the last 48 hours [from] regular members of the Senate, we were doing just fine until [Pelosi’s] intervention,” McConnell said. He promised that there would be another cloture vote, adding “Hopefully, some adults will show up on the other side of the room and understand the gravity of the situation and the need to act.”
Media reports appear to back up McConnell’s claims. Just 24 hours earlier, Politico ran a story with the headline: “Senate Closing in on Deal for $1.6 Trillion Rescue Package.” Around that same time, Schumer was telling reporters he was “optimistic we can get a deal.”
Democrats blame the GOP for ending negotiations and moving forward with a bill while their party was still making demands. Even Republican senators who are not known for their partisanship put the blame squarely on Democratic maneuvers and Speaker Pelosi.
“House Dems took a week off, came back, blew up negotiations,” Sen. Tim Scott (R- S.C.) tweeted. “Last week I was called ‘evil’ for voting against a bill that, if not fixed, will accelerate small business layoffs. Now, it’s not fixed, we know Dems never intended to work together & lives are endangered. Pitiful & pathetic.”
According to MarketWatch, “the debate took on an added dimension as the failed procedural vote on the floor came as U.S. stock futures markets opened sharply lower,”
The Republicans hoping to run against Senator Shaheen in November wasted no time attacking the incumbent’s vote against the deal.
“Today, Jeanne Shaheen sided with Nancy Pelosi and blocked a vital emergency relief bill from even coming to the Senate floor. Shameful,” retired Gen. Don Bolduc told NHJournal in a statement. “It finally seemed as if Washington was going to put politics aside to get something done, but Sen. Shaheen couldn’t set her partisanship aside. Now, American families and businesses will have to wait for the relief they need. The economy will suffer. And Sen. Shaheen will stand with Pelosi instead of the American people.”
Fellow Republican U.S. Senate candidate Corky Messner also condemned the vote.
”I own my own business and have spent a lot of time with New Hampshire business owners and their employees. Here’s what I know: they are fighters. I also know that right now, they are fighting for survival,” he told NHJournal in a statement. “Tonight’s vote was a poor example, and tonight’s obstruction by the Senate Democrats achieves nothing other than wasting precious time.”
Sunday’s failure is particularly problematic for Shaheen, who was a member of Schumer’s negotiating team.
“The American people expect us to act tomorrow,” McConnell said Sunday, “and I want everybody to fully understand if we aren’t able to act tomorrow, it will be because of our colleagues on the other side continuing to dither when the country expects us to come together and address this problem.”