Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday a new coronavirus stimulus bill should be considered at the beginning of 2021, not in a post-election lame duck session of Congress as some lawmakers had hoped would happen after pre-election talks failed.
“We probably need to do another package, certainly more modest than the $3 trillion dollar Nancy Pelosi package,” McConnell told Hugh Hewitt’s radio program. “I think that’ll be something we’ll need to do right at the beginning of the year.”
The decision could put off for weeks badly needed aid to hard hit Americans and businesses who have been anxious to see more aid quickly approved and stall its impact on the economy.
Talks between the administration and congressional Democrats — led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — over another stimulus package have floundered for months and members in both parties have expressed hope that getting past the election would remove some of the intense politics that they believe have kept the sides from reaching an agreement. The lack of a deal has left millions of Americans without additional unemployment benefits and money has long run out to aid small businesses, among other entities waiting on money from Washington to respond to the Covid pandemic and its widespread economic fallout.
McConnell’s comments signal that he wants to wait even longer before turning again to the issue. The issue of how much to spend on a new bill has deeply divided the Senate Republicans McConnell leads, as GOP lawmakers have balked at proposals that have a nearly $2 trillion price tag.
“I think we need to make a careful, calculated decision about what more to do to deal with this Coronavirus. We’re throwing money at the search for a vaccine, which is the wise thing to do,” McConnell said, adding later, “We could target it particularly at small businesses that are struggling, and hospitals that are now dealing with the second wave of the Coronavirus, and of course the challenges for education, both K-12 and college.”
A decision to not move a bill in the lame duck is something McConnell as majority leader can control in his chamber until January even if Republicans lose majority control in next week’s elections..
A delay could also affect a new president, should former Vice President Joe Biden win the White House, by putting off much-needed economic stimulus and requiring Biden to make it a first order of business for his administration.
McConnell made the comment after being asked what his priorities would be next year if Republicans had control of the White House, House and Senate.
Pelosi said earlier Friday morning she is “still hopeful” that the Democrats can come to an agreement on the stimulus bill with the Trump administration, though noting there are still large areas of disagreement.
“So we have a major difference of opinion. I was hoping that we could reconcile them. I still am hopeful that we will,” Pelosi told MSNBC.
Pelosi’s comment came the day after her conflicts with chief White House negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, spilled into public view. On Thursday afternoon, Mnuchin slammed Pelosi in their highest-profile clash so far, saying the speaker is refusing to compromise to get much-needed aid to Americans.
“Your ALL OR NONE approach is hurting hard-working Americans who need help NOW,” Mnuchin wrote in a letter.
His remarks came after Pelosi sent her own letter to Mnuchin earlier Thursday that emphasized just how divided the two sides remain on the details of a potential stimulus bill and hit the Trump administration for not accepting Democratic demands on key issues including funding for state and local governments, school safety provisions, childcare and unemployment insurance.