CNBC anchor Joe Kernen had a hard time believing that Senate Democrats would willingly derail a vote to proceed on a coronavirus relief measure because of politics. Late Sunday night, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the CARES Act, Phase Three of Congress's coronavirus response, arguing that it includes too many company "bailouts." It sounded like Kernen was ready to take them at their word. But GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy provided him a myriad of ways the Democrats have made this another partisan game. He should know, he was a firsthand witness.
"You're saying that they voted against this just on a political level?" Kernen asked McCarthy. "See, I'm saying they must have some real concerns. I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt."
“This is not a place to play politics,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says, as negotiations continue over a massive stimulus funding package to combat the coronavirus impact. https://t.co/JWi71uRBso pic.twitter.com/MoLnO9VKE7— CNBC (@CNBC) March 23, 2020
"Think about what this vote is," McCarthy countered. "It's a Senate cloture vote just to move forward."
They had 30 more hours to debate, had the vote passed. But they couldn't even bring themselves to vote on this procedural step, the leader observed. In meetings with top Democrats this weekend, McCarthy said that his counterparts were "upset" that Phase Three was not crafted by them. He contrasted their stonewalling with what happened last week over the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi crafted bill for Phase Two. McCarthy said it had problems, but Republicans voted on it knowing they could correct it later. He thought the Democrats would give them the same courtesy on Sunday.
"I took a handshake with the speaker in agreement that I want to pass a law, not with the things in it I agreed to, but we're going to fix it in the future for the good of this country," McCarthy said. He added that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told him he had only had a couple minor issues with the measure that sounded easy to fix. But their actions didn't match their words.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was as irate as we've ever seen him on the Senate floor last night. He, too, knew exactly where to place the blame.
"This obstruction achieves nothing!" McConnell said in his response. "Nothing whatsoever."
He plans to reschedule the cloture for Monday at noon, adding that he hopes some "adults" on the other side of the aisle manage to show up.