Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday demanded Democratic leaders to stop playing hardball with coronavirus aid and called for another attempt at a targeted relief bill.
Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, celebrated the news that Moderna will be requesting emergency-use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine, but warned that it doesn’t absolve Congress of its duty to pass a relief bill.
“There’s no reason not why we should not deliver another major pandemic relief package to help the American people through what seems poised to be the last chapters of this battle,” he said. “If Operation Warp Speed remains on this historic trajectory, we need to continue investing in a system that will distribute these vaccines around our country.
“We want the small businesses that have already hung on for most of the year to survive a few more months,” Mr. McConnell added.
Coronavirus relief will be one of several top priorities for lawmakers to juggle as they return to Capitol Hill this week after the Thanksgiving break, along with a comprehensive spending bill and the National Defense Authorization Act.
Republicans twice attempted to pass $500 billion packages that included additional small business loans, unemployment relief, school funds, and testing resources. Though both efforts were blocked by Senate Democrats.
While some rank-and-file Democrats have called for a compromise on coronavirus relief over the past few months, party leaders have continued to double down on their ask for a $2.2 trillion package, particularly as cases have spiked across the country.
Mr. McConnell blamed the lack of a relief bill on that particular strategy of sticking with the high-price package.
“The speaker of the House spent the entire summer and the entire autumn literally gambling with a health and welfare of the American people,” he said.
“But their all or nothing obstruction backfired,” he added, noting that Republicans made gains in the House.
Several portions of the historic bipartisan $2 trillion relief bill that Congress passed in March, such as boosted unemployment and the Paycheck Protection Program, lapsed months ago. Others — such as the federal eviction moratorium, student loan deferments and selective mortgage forbearance — are all set to expire by the end of the year if Congress doesn’t act.