Virus bill blocked in Senate as prospects dim for new relief

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats scuttled a scaled-back GOP coronavirus rescue package on Thursday as the parties argued to a standstill over the size and scope of the aid, likely ending hopes for coronavirus relief before the November election.

The mostly party-line vote capped weeks of wrangling that gave way to election-season political combat and name-calling over a fifth relief bill that all sides say they want but are unable to deliver.

The bipartisan spirit that powered earlier aid measures is all but gone.

Democrats said the measure shortchanged too many pressing needs. Republicans argued it was targeted to areas of widespread agreement, but the 52-47 vote fell well short of what was needed to overcome a filibuster.

All the present Democrats opposed it, while conservative Rand Paul, R-Ky., cast the only GOP “nay” vote.

The Democratic vice presidential nominee, Kamala Harris, was campaigning in Miami and missed the vote.

“It’s a sort of a dead end street, and very unfortunate,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. “But it is what it is.”

The $650 billion measure is significantly smaller than legislation promoted by Republican leaders this summer.

But that version was too big for most conservatives, so the GOP bill was instead stripped back to focus on school aid, jobless benefits and help for small businesses. That maximized Republican support even as it alienated Democrats, who say such a piecemeal approach would leave out far too many vulnerable people.

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