Coronavirus stimulus: McConnell pessimistic as President Trump pushes for deal before election

Denitsa Tsekova
·Reporter
·4 mins read

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sounded a pessimistic note on Friday morning while the White House reportedly increased its offer for comprehensive stimulus legislation to address increasing financial pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

“We do need another rescue package,” McConnell said at an event in Kentucky, “but the proximity election and the differences of opinion about what is needed at this particular juncture are pretty vast.”

At a subsequent event, McConnell said he didn’t know “if there’ll be a deal or not” but his first priority is confirming the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court before the election “even if an agreement” on new stimulus was reached.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 20: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L) listens to U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters while hosting Republican congressional leaders and members of Trump's cabinet in the Oval Office at the White House July 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump and the congressional leaders talked about a proposed new round of financial stimulus to help the economy during the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.  (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L) listens to U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters while hosting Republican congressional leaders and members of Trump's cabinet in the Oval Office at the White House July 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

The president, meanwhile, is pushing for a comprehensive stimulus deal after briefly calling off negotiations earlier this week. “Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along,” Trump tweeted on Friday. “Go Big!”

The White House is primarily represented by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Talks are ongoing.

“Their conversation focused on determining whether there is any prospect of an imminent agreement on a comprehensive bill,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s spokesperson, said in a tweet on Thursday. “The Secretary made clear the President's interest in reaching such an agreement.”

Pelosi, who sharply criticized the president’s withdrawal from the talks earlier this week, told reporters on Thursday that she is “hopeful because it has to be done.”

“We’ll see what they have to offer today," Pelosi told MSNBC on Friday morning. “Part of it is about money, and part of it is about policy."

At least 38 states have paid out all their funds available under the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program. (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)
At least 38 states have paid out all their funds available under the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program. (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

‘Leader McConnell continues to try to make the best of a tough situation’

The Democrats’ latest $2.2 trillion stimulus proposal — passed by the House last week — has a higher price tag than the White House’s reported $1.8 trillion proposal and a much higher price tag than the GOP’s previous $300 billion proposal.

McConnell, the longest-serving leader of U.S. Senate Republicans in history, noted on Friday that he’d like to see another bipartisan stimulus deal “like we did back in March and April, but I think that's unlikely in the next three weeks.” (President Trump signed the CARES Act into law on March 27, 2020, and most of the stimulus ran out at the end of July.)

In early August, McConnell said that the GOP would go along with any deal made between the White House and Democrats — but that no longer seems to be the case.

“Leader McConnell continues to try to make the best of a tough situation,” Mark Harkins, a former congressional staffer and senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute, told Yahoo Money. “The president would benefit politically from an agreement but a majority of Senate Republicans simply do not support the level of spending being discussed.”

Read more: Here’s what you need to know about unemployment benefits eligibility

US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, speaks to the press on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 9, 2020. - Pelosi introduced legislation that will create the Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of Office, the body and process called for in the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution to enable Congress to help ensure effective and uninterrupted leadership in the office of the president. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, speaks to the press on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 9, 2020. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

The Democratic proposal includes $436 billion for state and local governments, $282 billion for education and child care, a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks, an extra $600 of unemployment benefits through January, and other provisions.

Sticking points for any deal between the White House and Democrats include extra unemployment benefits, funding for schools, aid for state and local governments, child care support, funding for increased testing and tracing, and funding for other appropriations.

“The debt level of the U.S. is at an all-time high and many Republican lawmakers are loathe to increase it more,” Harkins said. “Regrettably, too many in the U.S. who need assistance are unlikely to receive it any time soon.”

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Denitsa is a writer for Yahoo Finance and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @denitsa_tsekova.

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