As President Donald Trump refuses to concede the election defeat, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called on the president and his administration to focus on working on the next phase of a coronavirus stimulus deal.
“Republicans should stop their shenanigans about an election that President Trump has already lost,” Schumer told reporters on Thursday, “and focus their attention on the immediate issue at hand, providing relief for a country living through the COVID health and economic crises.”
Stimulus negotiations stalled before the election and the two parties have not returned to actively negotiating a stimulus package. The two parties came close on the deal’s price tag with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) latest stimulus offer being $2.2 trillion and the White House’s proposal going up to “almost $1.9 trillion.”
Negotiations will now be between leading Democrats and the Republicans, which opens a big gap between the two proposals since the latest proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was worth just $500 billion when the House had already passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package.
“Our economy is really moving to get back on its feet,” McConnell told reporters in Kentucky last week. “That I think clearly ought to affect what size of any rescue package we additionally do. Something smaller, rather than throwing another $3 trillion at this issue, is more appropriate.”
The two parties both expressed a desire to work on a deal during the lame-duck session or the months before President-elect Biden’s inauguration, but serious disagreements remain. More relief provisions from the March CARES Act will expire soon, including the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program that is currently serving 9 million unemployed Americans.
‘Overwhelming referendum by the American people’
Schumer asserted that McConnell “sticking to his emaciated bill” is a “non-starter,” especially given that the bill was rejected twice in the GOP-controlled Senate. Schumer and Pelosi said their latest $2.2 trillion HEROES Act should be a starting point.
"The biggest change since Election Day is that Donald Trump, who is not for helping us in COVID and who is against the HEROES bill, has lost,” Schumer said. “That was an overwhelming referendum by the American people."
But while the Democrats won the presidential election, they lost some of the seats they had in the House and didn’t win enough seats to have a majority in the Senate (unless Democrats win both Senate runoffs in Georgia on January 5, 2021).
The Republicans’ pledge for a smaller stimulus bill comes as some of the economic recovery indicators have continued to improve. After the October jobs report beat estimates, with the addition of 638,000 jobs and an unemployment rate down to 6.9%, McConnell said this “is a stunning indication of a dramatic comeback of the economy,” paired with the surge in GDP in the third quarter.
At the same time, however, the economic recovery is slowing down. More than 10 million jobs have yet to be recovered and 21 million Americans still rely on some type of unemployment benefits, some of which expire at the end of the year.