Top GOP senator already threatening to block any more COVID relief next year

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Sen. John Thune's party has blocked coronavirus aid for seven months.

Senate Republican Whip John Thune suggested Thursday that his party would block any further COVID-19 relief spending if a bipartisan emergency bill passes this week — even if they are in the minority.

President-elect Joe Biden endorsed the outline of a potential $900 billion relief package on Wednesday, saying it would be "an important down payment on what's going to have to be done beginning the end of January into February."

But Thune, the senior senator from South Dakota, said of considering the bill a "down payment, "I don't see it that way."

He said that even if Democrats were to win Senate runoff races in Georgia on Jan. 5 and gain control of the Senate, Republicans could filibuster any proposals for more relief.

"A lot of it probably depends on what happens in Georgia, but even there you know it's gonna take 60 votes to do anything in the Senate," Thune said. A vote of three-fifths of the Senate is required to end a debate on legislation.

A spokesperson for Thune did not respond to an request for comment for this story.

As the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are at all-time highs, unemployment is again soaring. Making matters worse, emergency unemployment benefits, paid leave for workers, and housing protections for tenants are all set to expire this month unless Congress acts. Millions could face defaults, evictions, foreclosures, and poverty without federal help.

Thune has been part of the bipartisan group of lawmakers conducting negotiations on another virus relief bill in the final days of the 116th Congress.

But the Republican-controlled Senate did not need to wait this long to act.

The House passed a $3 trillion relief bill in May, but the Senate majority has refused to bring it up for a vote for seven months. From May to September, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold a vote on any relief proposal at all, telling the New York Times in August that it was "the reasonable thing to do" and saying, "It allowed us to learn the coronavirus didn't mysteriously disappear."

Over the past few months, Senate Republicans repeatedly tried to pass a $500 billion "skinny" bill that Democrats warned would not "come close to addressing the problems" and contained anti-worker provisions to shield businesses from lawsuits if their employees got sick on the job due to employer negligence.

If Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock both win their Senate runoff elections in Georgia next month, Americans will have elected Democrats to the White House and given them the majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

But with his latest comments, Thune is apparently serving notice that Senate Republicans intend to continue to prevent Democrats from passing legislation to help Americans through the worst public health crisis in a century.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.