- Mitch McConnell took aim at Democrats for their hardball approach to passing more stimulus.
- The party has moved to use budget reconciliation to pass a $US1.9 trillion plan without GOP support.
- McConnell used the same strategy when in the majority, including for tax cuts in 2017.
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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticised Democrats for a lack of bipartisanship Monday as they prepared to push through President Joe Biden’s $US1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package in a way meant to avoid a filibuster.
McConnell said this method meant the Democrats had “chosen a totally partisan path,” according to the Associated Press, adding: “That’s unfortunate.”
The tactic in question is budget reconciliation, a way of bringing legislation to the Senate floor that lowers the voting bar and avoids the prospect of the opposing party killing it via the filibuster.
Despite McConnell’s criticism, he and Republicans have taken the same route to pass measures without help from the opposing party. One example is the series of sweeping tax cuts in 2017 that formed a centrepiece of President Donald Trump’s term.
No GOP senators supported the new legislation in a Tuesday vote, suggesting the measure would not get far via conventional means.
The Senate is split exactly 50 votes to 50 across the two major parties, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tiebreaking vote. Ordinarily, a supermajority of 60 is needed to break a filibuster.
But in opting for budget reconciliation, the Democrats can pass bills relating to taxation, spending, and debt with a simple majority of 51 and are shielded from filibusters with a 20-hour limit on debate.
Biden met with a group of 10 Republicans on Monday night, led by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who earlier formed part of the bipartisan group that nudged stimulus discussions forward at the end of Trump’s term. But Biden has signalled that their $US618 billion counteroffer was far too little.
The $US1.9 trillion stimulus plan includes $US1,400 direct payments for most Americans, federal unemployment support through September, aid for state and local governments, and support for vaccine distribution.
The GOP plan has numerous differences, including reducing those payments to $US1,000, giving less federal unemployment support for a shorter amount of time, and removing aid for state and local governments.
McConnell’s jab seemed designed to cast doubt on the calls for unity and bipartisanship that came up repeatedly in Biden’s inauguration speech â€” and which were a hallmark of his campaigning style.
Since taking office, Biden has issued a flurry of executive orders, a unilateral move that cuts out all dealmaking with the opposing party.
Both parties have resorted to budget reconciliation to force legislation through in the past.
In 2017, with McConnell as Senate majority leader, Republicans used the mechanism to push through major tax cuts on a wafer-thin majority of 51. No Democratic senators voted in favour.
Budget reconciliation also played a role in passing parts of former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act in the face of GOP resistance in 2010, as The New York Times reported at the time.
The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters Monday that there was still room for Republicans to shape the COVID-19 bill.
“Republican ideas can be adopted during the reconciliation negotiations, and it is likely that several bipartisan ideas may be â€” or we are certainly hopeful of that,” she said.
McConnell’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.