McConnell Says Senate Will Pass Paid Sick Leave, Tells Republicans to ‘Gag and Vote’

A House-passed stimulus package to provide paid sick leave to workers of small and midsized companies will be voted on and passed by the Senate, despite some Republicans’ objections to the measure, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.

The Kentucky Republican said that although some of his members fear the bill could exacerbate the strain put on businesses amid reduced economic activity that has resulted from the coronavirus pandemic, the chamber will follow the House’s lead and send the proposal to President Donald Trump’s desk. It’s a move that McConnell believes will “reassure the people around the country that we can operate on a bicameral, bipartisan basis quickly.”

“A number of my members think there are considerable shortcomings in the House bill,” he said. “My counsel to them is to gag and vote for it anyway, even if they think it has shortcomings.”

McConnell’s announcement followed a closed-door luncheon with Senate Republicans and Steven Mnuchin, where the Treasury secretary pushed members to back it, according to several lawmakers who spoke to reporters.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, holds a press briefing about legislation in response to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, March 17.
Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

The Democratic-led House passed the bipartisan legislation, which is backed by the president and came to fruition after negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Mnuchin early Saturday morning. It’s yet-to-be-determined when the Senate will hold a vote.

“[Mnuchin] had every Democrat on one side, he had a divided Republican conference and a Republican president who wanted to get something done. If you could have done better, step up. Now’s your chance,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a supporter of the president. “There’s no chance in hell we’re gonna make this bill better in the Senate.”

The legislation would give workers of companies with less than 500 employees two weeks of paid sick leave, in addition to up to three months of paid family and medical leave; free coronavirus testing; food aid; unemployment insurance; and increased federal funds for Medicaid.

But GOP senators are concerned that the tax credits offered by the government to companies to offset the cost of providing paid sick leave would come too late, as several states have forced restaurants, bars, movie theaters and gyms to provide limited services or close altogether.

McConnell suggested that those who have misgivings about the measure should address any perceived shortcomings in another stimulus package that Congress and the Trump administration are scrambling to draft. It would be worth $1 trillion, Mnuchin told reporters Tuesday, and include more loans for businesses and checks that would go directly into Americans’ pockets.

The details of the trillion-dollar deal, which will eventually require Democratic input, are still being fleshed out.

This is a breaking story and will be updated with additional information.

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