The White House and Senate Republicans appear to be on different pages when it comes to the size of another coronavirus relief aid package.
United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that the Republican-led Senate would vote on a scaled-down coronavirus economic relief bill next week, while President Donald Trump took to Twitter to push lawmakers for a stimulus bill that goes “big”.
Democrats have rejected Senate Republicans’ smaller bill as they hold out for trillions more in aid.
With negotiations on a broader package stalled, Republicans and Democrats are under increasing pressure to throw a financial lifeline to the nation’s struggling businesses and households.
But a compromise deal on another round of pandemic relief aid is proving elusive and expectations are a bipartisan deal will not be reached before the November 3 election.
With the political climate growing ever more acrimonious as election day nears, Senate Republicans also appear to be out of lockstep with Trump.
After pulling the plug on stimulus talks last week – only to do an about-face within hours and restart them – Trump tweeted on Tuesday: “STIMULUS! “Go big or go home!!!”
STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2020
But McConnell said the full Senate’s first order of business when it returns on October 19 would be to vote on a not-so-big, relatively speaking, $500bn relief bill funded by leftover money from the now-expired Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses.
He said the bill would include help for schools and liability protections for businesses – measures for which Republicans have been pushing. McConnell also said there would be more help for the unemployed workers in the bill, but did not give specifics.
Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, on Sunday rejected the stripped-down measure to use leftover funds from the PPP.
They also rejected an earlier White House offer for a $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief package that moved closer to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s $2.2 trillion proposal.
Pelosi on Tuesday laid out what Democrats view as the shortcomings of the $1.8 trillion White House proposal, which also met resistance from Republicans in the US Senate who say it is too large.
“Tragically, the Trump proposal falls significantly short of what this pandemic and deep recession demand,” Pelosi said in a letter to lawmakers. She described the offer made last week by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – the White House’s point person on coronavirus relief talks – as “one step forward, two steps back”.
Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned that the fragile and stalling US economic recovery could be jeopardised without more virus relief aid from the government.
But Pelosi said she remained hopeful for a deal and appeared to leave the door open to additional talks. “Significant changes must be made to remedy the Trump proposal’s deficiencies,” she said. “Updates will continue.”
Her letter made it clear that Democrats view the White House offer as deficient on state and local government aid, COVID-19 testing and tracing, help for households struggling to pay the rent, worker safety, child care, relief for small businesses and other areas.
Pelosi took a swipe at Trump for his U-turn last week on stimulus talks while he was recovering from COVID-19.
“Following his tweet, the stock market went down and so did he in the polls,” Pelosi said in her letter. “The president only wants his name on a check to go out before Election Day and for the market to go up.”
Trump, who trails Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in many opinion polls, returned to the campaign trail this week.