McConnell uncertain over stimulus deal
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday expressed doubt over whether the White House and Democratic leaders will strike a deal to pass another major coronavirus relief package before the election.
“I don’t know if there will be another package in the next few weeks or not,” McConnell told reporters at a hospital event in Kentucky.
The GOP leader said the cooperative atmosphere in which the Senate unanimously passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March has “descended” into a partisan impasse.
“We’re giving it our best,” he said, but noted: “It’s harder to do now because we’re so much closer to the election.
“The cooperative spirit we had in March and April has dissipated as we’ve moved closer and closer to the election,” he said.
A 36-minute call between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Tuesday failed to make any progress.
“Sadly, this phone call made clear that Democrats and the White House continue to have serious differences understanding the gravity of the situation that America’s working families are facing,” Pelosi said in a statement after the call.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) say the package must provide at least $2.2 trillion in federal aid or they will not agree to it.
“Over a month ago, we said that we would be willing to cut a trillion dollars from the Heroes Act if the White House would add one trillion to the Senate bill. Last week, we said we would be willing to go down to $2.2 trillion,” Pelosi said.
McConnell is discussing with Senate Republican colleagues the possibility of putting a slimmed down COVID-19 relief package estimated to cost between $500 billion and $700 billion on the Senate floor for a vote later this month.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso (Wyo.) said Tuesday the “goal” is to have a vote on the bill after senators return to Washington next week.
McConnell told colleagues during a conference call Tuesday that vulnerable GOP senators up for reelection this year want to get at least 51 Republican votes for a relief package.
Democrats have bashed McConnell for months for pausing negotiations on the next round of coronavirus relief legislation after the Senate passed the CARES Act and a $484 billion interim relief package that provided more money for the popular Paycheck Protection Program.
Democrats are expected to block the revised Senate GOP bill because it does not include the $915 billion Pelosi and Schumer have requested for cash-strapped state and local governments.
It also includes language to protect businesses, colleges, schools, nonprofit organizations and hospitals from coronavirus-related lawsuits except in cases of willful misconduct or grossly negligent behavior.