Republicans in the Senate failed in their efforts to advance new economic stimulus measures worth about $500bn, after Democrats voted to block the legislation on the grounds that the package was too small to tackle the scale of the downturn still facing the US.
In a procedural vote on Thursday, 52 Republican senators approved the scaled-back fiscal stimulus bill with just one defection from their own ranks. However, because of unanimous Democratic opposition, the legislation failed to get the 60 votes required to move ahead towards final passage.
The failed vote highlights the extent to which Washington is deadlocked over new fiscal support for the US recovery, leaving many households, businesses, and state and local governments without the prospect of more assistance even as unemployment remains far above its pre-pandemic levels and coronavirus continues to spread in many states.
Most analysts and economists had predicted an agreement on a hefty new stimulus package by late July, but disagreements between Democrats and Republicans over the size and details of any agreement have hampered the talks.
Democrats passed legislation in May to provide $3tn in new stimulus for the US economy, but Republicans repeatedly rejected it as too excessive.
Even though its prospects were slim, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, wanted to put the limited stimulus bill to a vote to protect vulnerable senators from his party against Democratic accusations that they had turned down any additional help for the US economy.
The bill proposed this week by Senate Republicans extended emergency unemployment benefits that expired in July, albeit at half their previous level, but offered no additional direct payments to households or help for state and local governments.