McConnell: Chance for coronavirus deal ‘doesn’t look that good right now’
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday cast doubt on the ability for Congress to get a deal on a fifth coronavirus relief package after a failed vote in the Senate and a weeks-long stalemate between Democrats and the White House.
“We have been in a challenging period. … Regretfully, I can’t tell you today we’re going to get there. … I wish I could tell you we were going to get another package but it doesn’t look that good right now,” McConnell said during an event in Kentucky.
McConnell’s comments come after Democrats blocked a GOP coronavirus relief bill in the Senate on Thursday.
After the setback several members of the Senate Republican caucus predicted that the chances for a deal on another coronavirus relief bill were all but dead until after the November election.
Congressional Democrats are pushing for a sweeping bill to address the health and economic fallout from the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 191,000 people in the United States.
But talks between Democratic leadership, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows have gone nowhere since early August, when the negotiations derailed amid steep divisions over both the price tag and key policy provisions.
House Democrats passed a $3.4 trillion bill in May.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) offered to take $1 trillion off their price tag if the White House and Republicans would add the same amount to a $1.1 trillion bill unveiled in late July.
Republicans rejected that offer, with Mnuchin saying they could go as high as $1.5 trillion. That is approximately $700 billion less than the $2.2 trillion top-line figure offered by Democrats in late August.
In addition to the difference in the bill’s cost, they haven’t worked out significant policy differences including unemployment insurance or more help for state and local governments, where Republicans have offered $150 billion and Democrats are pushing for $915 billion.
Schumer predicted on Thursday that blocking the GOP bill could force Republicans to come back to the negotiating table and agree to a larger deal that includes Democratic priorities.
“Democrats urge our Republican colleagues to come to the table, meet us halfway, and negotiate in good faith on a bipartisan comprehensive bill that will benefit the entire country,” Schumer said in a statement after Thursday’s vote.
But Republicans argue that Democrats, specifically Pelosi, will need to make concessions for the talks to resume including dropping the demand for a multitrillion-dollar bill.
McConnell on Friday said the talks are stuck in “a gridlock,” adding that “my interpretation is the reason for that is we’re getting closer to the election.”
“I can’t predict that we’re going to get together here in the last two months before the election. … I would hope we could overcome our partisan differences and reach an agreement, but that has not happened as of today,” he said.
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