Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to the media after having lunch with Republican Senators on Capitol Hill in Washington on September 30, 2020.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters
Congress is unlikely to pass another coronavirus stimulus package before the November 3 elections, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said Friday.
The White House and the Democrats have resumed recent talks on an elusive aid deal. In his home state of Kentucky, the Republican said "the situation is bleak" as negotiators try to "gain a political advantage" while Americans cast their ballots.
"I would love to see how we rise above like we did in March and April, but I think that is unlikely to be in the next three weeks," he said.
Washington officials disagreed on how much money to put into a fifth pandemic relief package as economic pain worsens for millions of Americans during a sluggish recovery. After telling his administration earlier this week to pull out of talks, President Donald Trump renewed his urge to inject trillions into the economy during his push for re-election.
House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin still have to reach an agreement and then write a bill that is expected to cost at least $ 1.5 trillion. The package would have to go through both the Democratic House and the GOP-controlled Senate – where Republicans have raised concerns about spending trillions more on the federal response to the virus.
McConnell's comments follow days of confusion over what exactly the president wants in an aid deal. He broke off talks on Tuesday, then reversed course and requested standalone bills to settle direct payments to Americans, small business loans, and help to airlines to cover payroll.
His administration then signaled that he would support a comprehensive agreement that included these and possibly other provisions. Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke on Thursday about whether they could quickly find common ground for comprehensive legislation.
Pelosi wants a bill that will reinstate the $ 600 weekly unemployment benefit, which expired in July, and send at least $ 436 billion more to state and local governments. She also plans to invest $ 10 billion more in Covid-19 testing, contact tracing, and vaccine development. The house passed a $ 2.2 trillion plan earlier this month.
Trump has spoken out against more state and local aid, despite Mnuchin including $ 250 billion for those governments in his previous $ 1.6 trillion offer to Pelosi. The Treasury Secretary also proposed additional unemployment benefits of $ 400 per month.
Congress has failed to send new aid for months as the U.S. healthcare system collapses in an angry outburst. The country reported more than 56,000 new infections on Thursday, the highest one-day mark in almost two months.
As the virus spread to Trump and his entire White House and campaign last week, Pelosi increased her criticism of how the president handled the pandemic. The California Democrat wrote to House Democrats Friday, admonishing the president to downplay the virus even after being hospitalized and treated for Covid-19.
"This week, when President Trump stepped back from negotiating coronavirus aid, he stepped back from a strategic plan to fight the virus and showed his deadly disdain for science, governance, and the health and lives of the American people "she wrote.
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