For months, the fate of the next stimulus bill has hung in the balance, with Democrats, Republicans, and the White House consistently failing to agree over specific provisions and a price tag.
Last week, President Trump ordered Republicans to cease negotiations until after the election. However, later that day, he tweeted that he would support several stopgap bills, including additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and another round of direct stimulus payments to Americans.
But on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell revealed plans for a $500 billion package — far short of the price tag pushed by both the House and Trump administration — during an event in his home state of Kentucky.
“We’re going to go back on the floor next week, again, with a proposal more narrowly targeted. I want to give my friends on the other side one more chance to do highly-targeted relief that the country desperately needs,” McConnell stated.
His legislation contains more funding for the PPP, supplemented unemployment, schools, and liability protections. The Senate will vote on the measure when it reconvenes on October 19.
Shortly after McConnell announced his version of a stimulus bill, President Trump called for a bigger price tag, tweeting, “STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!”
Since May, the House has repeatedly pushed for a comprehensive stimulus deal, starting with the more than $3 trillion HEROES Act. After negotiations, Democrats trimmed the bill down to a little over $2.2 trillion in September. On the other hand, the White House initially proposed a $1.6 trillion bill but later raised it to $1.8 trillion after both parties rejected it.
McConnell’s latest version is comparable to the bill he outlined at the beginning of September, which failed to pass in the Senate. This early variation had a $650 billion price tag, though it was supplemented by leftover funds from the CARES Act and contained just $300 billion in new money.
In an interview with Yahoo Money, Mark Harkins, a senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute and a former congressional staffer, said, “Leader McConnell is trying to change the narrative to Democrats blocking relief in an attempt to protect his endangered incumbents.”
“The bottom line: This is still posturing and not meant to advance the negotiations. Whether the electorate sees it that or not is an open question,” Harkins added.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have continued ongoing talks to reach a deal. She said that while the administration’s most recent proposal doesn’t match the funding she has called for, she is optimistic that both sides will find a compromise.
School funding, protections for workers during the pandemic, childcare, renter protections, aid for small businesses and election efforts, and more funding for tracing and testing are among the most significant points of contention between the House and the Trump administration.
During a Tuesday conference call with fellow Democrats, Pelosi said, “We really need to have an agreement, but we cannot have an agreement by just folding,” according to The Wall Street Journal. “I don’t think our leverage has ever been greater than it is now,” she continued.
But even if Democrats and the White House reach an agreement, many doubt that it could get the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate.
On Tuesday, McConnell issued a statement that read, “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.”
- Tsekova, Denitsa. “Coronavirus Stimulus: McConnell Breaks from White House-Democratic Negotiations, Unveils Separate Bill.” Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo!, 13 Oct. 2020, finance.yahoo.com/news/coronavirus-stimulus-mc-connell-breaks-from-white-house-democratic-negotiations-unveils-separate-bill-201439270.html.