GOP cool to White House's $1.6T coronavirus price tag

The latest White House coronavirus relief offer, with a $1.6 trillion price tag, received a cool reception Thursday from congressional Republicans.

The new offer from Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinMcConnell and Schumer's relationship shredded after court brawl On The Money: Trump says stimulus deal will happen after election | Holiday spending estimates lowest in four years | Domestic workers saw jobs, hours plummet due to COVID Trump says stimulus deal will happen after election MORE, which exceeds the original $1.1 trillion Senate GOP package and the $1.5 trillion the White House signaled it could support last month, was made as part of renewed talks this week with Democratic leaders.

But Republicans, including influential chairmen and members of leadership, are warning they can't support it, creating another potential obstacle for negotiators trying to strike a deal on emergency COVID-19 aid after nearly two months of stalemate.


Asked about the prospect of supporting a $1.6 trillion measure, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyBarrett confirmation stokes Democrats' fears over ObamaCare On The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Grassley: Voters should be skeptical of Biden's pledge to not raise middle class taxes MORE (R-Iowa) was direct: "No."

"I think we've made it very clear that there's so much money ... that isn't even out of Washington yet," Grassley said. "We're more in the neighborhood of something below $1 trillion."

Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyLawmakers offer bipartisan bill to encourage retirement savings On The Money: GOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag | Company layoffs mount as pandemic heads into fall | Initial jobless claims drop to 837,000 GOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag MORE of Texas, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, also appeared unsure he could back a bill with that dollar amount by criticizing the inclusion of a $400 per week federal unemployment benefit.

"How much wasteful spending will we have to swallow to do this?" he said during an interview with Fox Business Network on Thursday.

The pushback comes as Republicans have struggled to unite behind a strategy on the coronavirus relief talks. Senate Republicans initially unveiled a $1.1 trillion package in late July but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: Battle for Senate 'a 50-50 proposition' 'Packing' federal courts is already a serious problem What a Biden administration should look like MORE (R-Ky.) warned that he could lose up to 20 of his 53 GOP senators with that measure.


But Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntWorking together to effectively address patient identification during COVID-19 Trump announces intention to nominate two individuals to serve as FEC members Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, predicted Thursday that if there were going to be a deal it would be closer to $2 trillion than $1 trillion.

"We need a bill that half of our members can vote for. It kind of depends on how you structure it," Blunt said, while suggesting that using unspent money or tying spending to future economic activity could be a way to keep the price tag lower.

Others said they want to see the details for a $1.6 trillion package, but acknowledged that was more than they would want to spend.

"It depends on what's in it. That's more than I would want to spend, but I do think it's important to get something done," said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCook moves Texas to 'toss-up' Biden pushes into Trump territory Cruz: Hunter Biden attacks don't move 'a single voter' MORE (R-Texas).

Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag Romney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' Netflix distances from author's comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project MORE (R-N.D.), said he would want to see the details, but acknowledged that a higher price tag would be "harder" for Republicans.


"The higher the price, the fewer Republicans and that's true ... but the substance also matters," Cramer said.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyWorking together to effectively address patient identification during COVID-19 Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight On The Money: GOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag | Company layoffs mount as pandemic heads into fall | Initial jobless claims drop to 837,000 MORE (R-Ala.) said he "would support a rational compromise," but declined to say if he thought $1.6 trillion met that definition and instead wanted to see the specifics.

A GOP bill in August that cost roughly $500 billion garnered support from every Senate Republican except Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump says ex-staffer who penned 'Anonymous' op-ed should be 'prosecuted' CIA impeachment whistleblower forced to live under surveillance due to threats: report Rand Paul rips 'leftwing media' for focusing on COVID-19 cases: 'Mortality rates are plummeting' MORE (Ky.). The measure was blocked by Senate Democrats.

To get a deal with congressional Democrats, Republicans would have to increase their price tag, not lower it. House Democrats passed a $3.4 trillion bill in May, and Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Graham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs Lewandowski: Trump 'wants to see every Republican reelected regardless of ... if they break with the president' MORE (D-N.Y.) have said they would be willing to go down to $2.2 trillion.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneEnsuring more Americans have access to 5G technology Pence won't preside over Barrett's final confirmation vote Gaffes put spotlight on Meadows at tough time for Trump MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, appeared skeptical that GOP senators would be willing to put up the 13 votes to pass a coronavirus relief deal costing around $1.6 trillion.

"As the price goes up, the Republican vote total goes down. ... If you start pushing beyond even that level where Senator McConnell started with the HEALS Act, I think it gets much harder to get Republican votes," Thune said, referring to the $1.1 trillion package.

"Could you pass it? Maybe? But you’re going to pass it with 47 democrats and 13republicans and that’s – depending on what that number is, I don’t know where the 13 republicans would come from," Thune added.

McConnell has appeared deeply skeptical that the renewed talks between Pelosi and Mnuchin will lead to a deal.

"I think Secretary Mnuchin and the Speaker continue to speak, but we're very, very far apart," he told reporters during a press conference Wednesday.

Asked on Thursday about the White House-Pelosi talks, McConnell added: "I’m wishing them well."