White House Will Step Back From Stimulus Talks As Pelosi Slams Republicans For Refusing To Address Covid-19 Resurgence
President Trump’s administration will step back from negotiations over the next round of federal coronavirus aid legislation, Bloomberg reported Thursday, and let Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) take the lead on behalf of Republicans—that’s yet another indication that the next coronavirus aid bill isn’t likely to pass in Congress’ lame duck session.
The news follows recent reports that McConnell would step in to lead the effort instead of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has alienated some in the GOP over concessions to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as they raced to reach an agreement ahead of Election Day.
Mnuchin had most recently offered Pelosi a $1.8 trillion package (as a counter to a $2.2 trillion bill passed by Democrats in the House), but differences over a Covid-19 testing and tracing plan, state and local aid, changes to certain tax credits, and a handful of other provisions prevented a final agreement.
It’s not likely that McConnell, who recently touted a positive October jobs report and promising vaccine news as signals that lawmakers should pass a much smaller bill, would support spending on the level.
The White House will likely consult with GOP lawmakers on the details of the next bill but is only planning to take the lead again if negotiations need to be entirely restarted, Bloomberg reported, citing multiple people familiar with the situation.
During a press briefing on Thursday, Pelosi said that some Republicans’ refusal to accept the results of last week’s election is actively preventing lawmakers from taking steps to address the coronavirus pandemic as cases surge to alarming levels.
“They’re engaged in an absurd circus right now refusing to accept reality,” Pelosi said. “The Republicans are shamefully pretending…making it even harder to address the massive health and economic crisis that we are facing.”
After months of gridlock in Washington, lawmakers are still faced with the same set of disagreements over the next aid bill. Republicans led by McConnell, who currently have control of the Senate and are likely to retain that control in January (pending the results of two runoff elections) are largely in favor of a smaller, targeted bill similar to the $500 billion “skinny” packages they have unsuccessfully tried to pass in the Senate. Top Democrats have dismissed those bills as inadequate to address the needs of the country, especially as the virus spikes to record levels ahead of the winter months. Both McConnell and Pelosi have dug in their heels this week on their respective positions. “We’re in the same place,” Pelosi said at a press briefing Thursday. “It seems to me that snag that hung us up for months is still there,” McConnell said Tuesday.
President-elect Joe Biden spoke with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Thursday about the “urgent need” for Congress to pass a lame duck stimulus bill. Biden is reportedly gearing up to take a more active role in stimulus discussions.
What To Watch For
There’s no indication that either Pelosi or McConnell is prepared to make major concessions, though both have said they believe lawmakers need to pass another aid bill before the end of the year. It’s not clear whether that will be possible, especially since President Trump would need to sign that bill into law.
White House Leaves Stimulus to Congress After Months of Impasse (Bloomberg)
Senate Republicans Release $1.4 Trillion Spending Plan—Without Covid-19 Relief—Ahead Of December 11 Government Shutdown Deadline (Forbes)
Don’t Bank On A Big Economic Stimulus From Congress’ Lame Duck Session (Forbes)
Goldman Sachs Predicts A V-Shaped Recovery And A $1 Trillion Stimulus Package Before Biden Inauguration (Forbes)