McConnell not certain there will be a fifth coronavirus package
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday cast doubt on whether negotiators would be able to break the impasse on a fifth coronavirus package, though he said that he thinks there needs to be another bill.
“We do need another bill and I’m hoping that this impasse will end soon. …[But] I can’t tell you yet here today whether there’s going to be additional relief for health care providers,” McConnell said at an event in Kentucky.
“I’m hoping what we’re talking about today is not that last tranche that we will make, but as of the moment, today, I can’t tell you with certainty we’re going to reach an agreement,” he said, adding that the talks had been “further complicated” by the November elections.
McConnell’s remarks come after negotiations between the Trump administration and congressional Democrats derailed earlier this month amid deep policy and political differences.
Republicans have lined up behind aid totaling roughly $1 trillion, while the House passed a more than $3 trillion package in May. As part of the talks, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered to drop their price tag by $1 trillion if Republicans agreed to add $1 trillion to their top line.
“We are miles apart in our values,” Pelosi told reporters last Thursday.
“Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gave a damn,” she added, referring to Republicans. “That isn’t the case. This is very far apart.”
Asked when her next talk would be with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Pelosi responded: “I don’t know. When they come in with $2 trillion.”
That strategy would then require Democrats and the administration to hash out a top line between $2 trillion and roughly $2.5 trillion.
Mnuchin and Meadows, however, rejected the offer.
McConnell said on Monday that a $2.5 trillion bill would be “difficult to justify.”
The Kentucky Republican also gave no indication that he is preparing to bring the chamber back early from its three-week August break, even as the House will return this week for legislation to block changes to the U.S. Postal Service ahead of the presidential election.
He said “nothing was lost” by allowing members to go back to their home states, since most aren’t directly involved in the negotiations.
“The House hasn’t been around most of the time and the talks are occurring between the top leaders. … There was no point in keeping them there, we were not voting on other matters,” McConnell said.
Mnuchin and Meadows are briefing Senate Republicans daily.