WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday that he plans to roll out a targeted coronavirus relief package next week. Minutes later, President Donald Trump followed up with the tweet, “STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!”
The GOP dispute underscores issues between the White House and GOP senators over the price tag for a federal relief bill and whether or not it should include costly items like another round of direct payments to Americans.
During negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, both sides agreed a bipartisan deal would include additional checks. However, McConnell wasn’t part of those talks and his last Senate proposal did not include direct payments.
According to Politico, McConnell says his next package will include funding for the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses.
“Republicans do not agree that nothing is better than something for working families. The American people need Democrats to stop blocking bipartisan funding and let us replenish the PPP before more Americans lose their jobs needlessly,” McConnell said.
McConnell went on to say the Senate will have time next week to consider both Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination and a relief package.
Last week saw a wild back-and-forth on negotiations over a relief package.
On Friday, the White House boosted its COVID-19 aid offer to roughly $1.8 trillion, with a key state and local fiscal relief component moving from $250 billion to at least $300 billion. The White House says its most recent prior offer was about $1.6 trillion.
“I would like to see a bigger stimulus package than either the Democrats or Republicans are offering,” Trump said on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show Friday.
Earlier in the week, Trump lambasted Democrats for their demands on an aid bill. On Tuesday, he ordered an end to the weekslong talks after being told that few Republicans in Congress would end up voting for a possible deal between Pelosi and Mnuchin.
After taking blowback for that decision, Trump sought to revive the negotiations Thursday. Yet even as Mnuchin was reengaging with Pelosi, staffers in the White House — working under chief of staff Mark Meadows, a key negotiator — were issuing demands for a smaller package stuffed with Trump’s priorities.
Democrats have made it clear they will not do a piecemeal approach until the Trump administration signs off on a broader, comprehensive plan they are proposing for virus testing, tracing and other actions to stop its spread. They have scaled back a $3 trillion measure to a $2.2 trillion proposal.
McConnell has previously said he doesn’t see a deal coming together soon out of a “murky” situation in which the participants in the negotiations are elbowing for political advantage.
While stimulus checks have been widely pushed by Democrats, they could also be viewed as a win for the president. When the first round of checks was distributed, Trump’s signature was on each of the payments. If Trump was able to get a second round of relief distributed as people are heading to the polls for early voting, it would certainly be something to brag about before the election.
“I’d like to see us rise above that like we did in March and April but I think it’s unlikely in the next three weeks,” McConnell said to reporters last week.
All this comes as Trump is sliding in the polls and was off the campaign trail for a while due to his battle with COVID-19. The White House is also short-staffed and dealing with infections among its employees, and the president and Pelosi are attacking each other’s mental health.
Senator McConnell’s full statement:
“Secretary Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Meadows are right: There is no excuse for Democrats to keep blocking job-saving funding for the Paycheck Protection Program while other conversations continue.
“The PPP is a popular program that has saved tens of millions of American jobs. It is so bipartisan that its first round was replenished and extended several times by unanimous consent in both the Senate and the House. But it has become yet another casualty of Democrats’ all-or-nothing obstruction.
“Last month, 52 Senate Republicans voted to pass hundreds of billions more dollars for priorities like testing, healthcare, safe schools, unemployment benefits, and economic support. That included legislation from Chairman Rubio and Senator Collins that would provide a second round of the PPP for the hardest-hit small businesses while streamlining the program and strengthening oversight.
“Republicans had the votes to pass all this relief. But Senate Democrats chose to filibuster it dead.
“Democrats have spent months blocking policies they do not even oppose. They say anything short of their multi-trillion-dollar wish list, jammed with non-COVID-related demands, is “piecemeal” and not worth doing. Speaker Pelosi frequently says she feels “nothing” is better than “something.” And she has worked hard to ensure that nothing is what American families get.
“When the full Senate returns on October 19th, our first order of business will be voting again on targeted relief for American workers, including new funding for the PPP. Unless Democrats block this aid for workers, we will have time to pass it before we proceed as planned to the pending Supreme Court nomination as soon as it is reported by the Judiciary Committee.
“Republicans do not agree that nothing is better than something for working families. The American people need Democrats to stop blocking bipartisan funding and let us replenish the PPP before more Americans lose their jobs needlessly.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(This story was originally published on October 13, 2020)
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