Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the differences are likely too big and the time is too short for Congress to agree on a new comprehensive stimulus package before the election, despite President Donald Trump’s renewed interest in striking a deal.
“I believe that we do need another rescue package, but the proximity to the elections and the differences of opinion about what is needed are pretty vast,” McConnell said at an event in his home state of Kentucky.
He also said that while both sides agree on the need for aid to U.S. airlines, that too is unlikely to happen in the next three weeks.
After announcing Tuesday he was ending negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Trump shifted direction on Thursday and signaled that the administration is again leaning toward a large-scale stimulus bill. But McConnell’s remarks suggest Senate Republicans may be as big an obstacle to a deal as Pelosi.
McConnell has said that there are members of his GOP majority who think the government has already provided enough stimulus.
Pelosi and Democrats are pursuing a $2.2 trillion boost to the economy. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has countered with a proposal for about $1.6 trillion. But McConnell highlighted the “narrowly targeted” GOP package of about a half-trillion dollars that Democrats blocked as insufficient.
Mnuchin told Pelosi in a 40-minute call Thursday that Trump wants agreement on a comprehensive stimulus package, according to Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesman.
White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said the administration has “made very clear we want a skinny package,” though she said later that the White House was “open to going with something bigger.” She reiterated opposition to the $2.2 trillion plan from House Democrats.
The signals from the White House on a stimulus have helped push the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 higher.
But there has been plenty of doubt in Washington about reaching a deal. Along with McConnell’s remark, Pelosi sent a letter to House Democrats Friday morning saying the differences are philosophical as well as fiscal.
“The Administration does not share this priority of crushing the virus. The President does not have the capacity, leadership or plan for testing, tracing, and isolation that is needed,” Pelosi wrote. “Instead, Trump’s delay, denial, distortion of reality and disdain for science has exacted a deadly and preventable human toll.”
The negotiations are proceeding against a frenzied backdrop, with the president recuperating from Covid-19 and the final stretch of the election campaign under way. Pelosi and Trump publicly questioned each other’s ability to perform their jobs on Thursday.
The House speaker said Thursday there could be no action on a stand-alone bill to aid airlines or any other sector of the economy without an agreement with the White House and Republicans on a broader stimulus package.
Pelosi said airline aid could move through Congress before a comprehensive deal is voted on — but that would have to be advanced in the “context” of a broader bill. “I have made the case to my colleagues that this is a special case,” Pelosi said on Bloomberg TV.
“There is no stand-alone bill without a bigger bill,” she said. Pelosi has also said this week she is pressing for language that would limit Trump’s ability to divert virus testing and treatment funds to other projects.