Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that a new economic stimulus bill should be completed before the end of the year and will be the focus when the Senate returns to session next week.
McConnell, R-Ky., also said that state and local aid — a longtime Democratic demand — could be part of the legislation.
McConnell made his comments at a news conference in Kentucky a day after the election, and following his own reelection to a seventh term in the Senate.
“We need another rescue package. The Senate goes back into session next Monday. Hopefully the partisan passions that prevented us from doing another rescue package will subside with the election. And I think we need to do it and I think we need to do it before the end of the year,” McConnell said.
“It’s a possibility we will do more for state and local governments,” McConnell said.
Although Republicans appear poised to retain their Senate majority — confounding Democrats’ hopes — McConnell was circumspect on that, saying it was not yet clear whether he would be returning as majority leader or minority leader. He acknowledged that “We’re in a pretty good position” in key races that could be decided by the end of the day.
McConnell’s comments could open the door to a new phase in economic relief talks that have sputtered off and on for months. Most recently the key players have been House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who spent many hours negotiating around an approximately $2 trillion package that McConnell and Senate Republicans viewed as too costly.
McConnell mostly watched those talks from the sidelines. At one point last month, McConnell warned White House officials against pursuing a stimulus bill before the election, saying it could imperil the GOP majority.
While criticizing Pelosi’s demands, McConnell did try to advance a much smaller bill on the Senate floor that had no state or local aid at all but he was blocked by Democrats.
The small McConnell bill also omitted $1,200 checks to individuals — even though McConnell has said he favors sending out another round of those, and Democrats and Trump also favor doing so.
McConnell’s comments on Wednesday suggested a new focus on the issue. Congress has not acted to provide any new economic aid since the spring when lawmakers rushed through four bipartisan bills totaling around $3 trillion.
The coronavirus is not going to go away “until we kill it, so that’s job one. We’ve already allocated an enormous amount of money toward testing, treatment and vaccines. We may need to do more in the next rescue package because ultimately you got to kill the [virus] before we get back to normal because there’s no other way to get back to normal,” McConnell said.
He said other sectors need help, too, “But I don’t get to make the final decision we have to deal with the Democrats. And what I’m saying is, I think now that the election’s over the need is there and we need to sit down and work this out. And state and local could end up being a part of it. I’d like to see it done a little more skillfully than simply providing borrowed money for everyone regardless of their need.”
“We need to sit down and talk to each other like we did back in March and April and address the problem and I’m confident we will no matter who ends up running the government, no matter who’s in the White House, no matter who’s — I think we know the Democrats are gonna run the House — no matter who runs the Senate, it’s time to overcome all that and get results,” McConnell said.
A spokesman for Pelosi had no immediate response to McConnell’s comments.
Congress will also face a Dec. 11 government shutdown deadline when funding for federal agencies runs out unless they pass another spending bill. McConnell said he and Pelosi agreed on the need for a new package of spending bills for the 2021 fiscal year — rather than a simple extension of government funding at existing levels.