The stimulus proposal Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) unveiled on Tuesday looked similar to his previous bills that were already rejected by the Senate, raising questions about the likelihood of a new deal.
“If McConnell were serious about working with the Democrats, he wouldn't have put back out his same proposal again,” Mark Harkins, a former Democratic congressional staffer and a senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute, told Yahoo Money. “Because that's obviously a nonstarter.”
McConnell's new $333 billion proposal includes a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses, a one-month extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs, liability shield for businesses, among other provisions. The package could be worth as much as $500 billion by repurposing available government funds, including what's left over from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress in March.
McConnell’s previous bill included an extra $300 in weekly unemployment benefits, which isn’t part of the most recent package. This package also doesn’t include funds for state and local governments or a second round of stimulus checks, two provisions supported by Democrats that they included in their most recent $2.2 trillion version of the HEROES Act.
Unless Congress reaches a stimulus deal in the lame-duck session, the PUA and the PEUC programs — among other relief — will expire, leaving up to 12 million Americans without jobless benefits.
‘The Republican leader should not waste the Senate's time’
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who called McConnell’s previous $500 billion proposal a “nonstarter,” said his most recent proposal “will be even more insufficient than the previous two attempts” given that those were voted down in the GOP-controlled Senate.
“The latest Republican offer on COVID will include immunity from corporations who put their workers at risk for COVID, but not a dime for workers who lost their job because of the pandemic,” he said from the Senate floor on Wednesday. “The Republican leader should not waste the Senate's time on another inadequate partisan proposal.”
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Schumer sent McConnell a new stimulus offer with an undisclosed price on Monday evening, with Schumer saying it’s “a private proposal to help us move the ball forward.”
A bipartisan group of lawmakers also introduced $908 billion proposal on Tuesday, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D- WV), one of its authors, saying that “it’s not the time for political brinkmanship.” Pelosi and Schumer backed the proposal on Wednesday which has a significantly lower price tag than their $2.2 trillion proposal.
The bipartisan proposal is supported by four Republican and five Democratic senators. That may not be enough to put pressure on Republicans to negotiate on a higher price tag or be enough to provide additional votes for a bill to pass in the Senate, according to Harkins.
"That bipartisan coalition is only nine people,” he said. “If you had a partisan deal on one side or the other, and those people came with you, you're still looking at 53 to 56 votes. That's still not 60.”
‘If she takes a third of a deal right now, she may get a zero deal next year’
McConnell said his proposal is a way to quickly pass relief in the lame-duck session and that it’s a package that will be supported by the president.
“We want to get a result and I like to remind everybody that the way you get a result is you have to have a presidential signature,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday. “The first thing we needed to do was to find out what the president would, in fact, sign. We believe we’ve got the answer to that. We’re vetting that on our side.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that President Trump will sign McConnell’s most recent proposal.
McConnell also said that the discussions about more relief will continue after President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration while the current deal can include “the things that we can agree on now.”
“We all know that after the first of the year, there's likely to be a discussion about some additional package of some size next year, depending upon what the new administration wants to pursue,” McConnell said.
Depending on the outcome of the Georgia Senate runoff races, Democrats may not be in a position to get some of the provisions they want even in 2021, according to Harkins.
“[Pelosi] has got to be very careful because if she takes a third of a deal right now,” he said. “She may get a zero deal next year if the Republicans win both the Georgia seats.”