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.
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.”
“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."
‘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.”
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.”