Principal negotiators on a COVID-19 stimulus package have clung tightly to divergent goals, making a deal unlikely in the few remaining days before the November elections.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) met yesterday and again today after Pelosi rejected a $1.8 trillion offer from the White House last Friday that did not include any specifics for a national coronavirus testing strategy. The two entrenched sides continue to talk, with a frustrated President Trump taking turns handing out blame for the impasse. Trump said earlier today that Pelosi wants “all sorts of goodies” in the bill, but groused that his representative, Mnuchin, “hasn’t come home with the bacon.”
Mnuchin and Pelosi have made some progress in their weeks-long negotiations, including the agreement on a new round of $1,200 stimulus checks, but remain far apart on funding for state and local governments, unemployment benefits, an expanded child tax credit, and liability protections for businesses and schools. Trump’s pleas to lawmakers to “go big or go home” on COVID aid also don’t resonate with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who plans to bring to the Senate floor next week another vote on a tailored $500 billion bill that would include funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), hospitals and schools.
“Republicans do not agree that nothing is better than something for working families,” McConnell said. “The American people need Democrats to stop blocking bipartisan funding and let us replenish the PPP before more Americans lose their jobs needlessly.”
McConnell was asked today whether Senate Republicans might accept a deal in the $1.8 trillion range as offered by the White House and he responded, “That’s where the administration is willing to go. My members think what we laid out – a half a trillion dollars, highly targeted – is the best way to go.”
Pelosi has resisted a piecemeal approach to COVID relief or any offer that ignores certain areas of need. “It’s like you’re bleeding and they keep putting band-aids on it,” Pelosi said of Republicans’ approach to COVID aid. “But they’re not addressing the problem.”
At this writing on Thursday evening, we have House Leadership that won’t take anything less than $2.2 trillion, Senate Leadership that won’t take anything more than $500 billion, and the White House will sign anything. Secretary Mnuchin is leaving the U.S. on foreign travel next week, as the Senate votes on the Amy Coney Barrett SCOTUS nomination. Senate Leader McConnell will put another $500 billion COVID-19 relief bill on the Senate floor, remarkably like the same bill he brought to the floor on September 10th that failed to get 60 votes, and the bill next week will fail as well.
Then, we have a national election.