WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Congress has until the end of Tuesday to deliver more coronavirus relief before the election, with differences between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, her Senate Republican rivals and President Donald Trump holding up aid for Americans.
Significant differences remain in the way of an informal Tuesday deadline set by Pelosi if the talks are going to lead to legislation — including $1,200 stimulus checks — being delivered to Trump before the election.
According to multiple reports, Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will meet again on Tuesday in hopes of reaching an agreement on a deal. However, some major roadblocks remain.
Here are the primary developments to keep your eye on Tuesday:
Pelosi holding at $2.2 trillion
Pelosi has drawn a line in the sand with a $2.2 trillion bill, and Mnuchin appears to inch closer to that mark each day.
On Tuesday morning, Politico sourced Republicans involved in the talks as saying they’ve agreed to more than $1.9 trillion in spending — including a rental assistance program. Those GOP sources say it’s possible Mnuchin will also need to agree to additional state and local funding.
Trump seems open to the deal, saying, “I would be willing to go more, because I think … The government we get the money back — it gets the money back anyway and it’s better than unemployment and all the costs associated with the alternative,” according to a tweet from the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein.
GOP senators not interested in big deal
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his colleagues in the Senate have expressed little to no interest in a bill larger than the approximately $500 billion proposal they’ll be voting on later this week. Many political insiders speculate Republican lawmakers are concerned about cutting a large spending bill with Pelosi just weeks before control of the Senate is put in the hands of voters.
Trump said during Thursday’s town hall with NBC that Republicans “will agree with it.”
“They’ll go,” he told moderator Savannah Guthrie. “I haven’t asked them to because I can’t get through to Nancy Pelosi.”
The two sides continue to hash out language over such things as money for state and local governments and liability and worker protections.
The liability protection is a priority for McConnell. The liability shield would protect businesses, hospitals and others against COVID-19 lawsuits. Democrats are not on board.
According to Politico, Pelosi and Mnuchin agreed to have House leadership work through differences on language in anticipation of an agreement. Politico predicts the process of finalizing the bill and negotiating particulars could take days.
The last coronavirus relief package, the $1.8 trillion bipartisan CARES Act, passed in March by an overwhelming margin as the economy went into lockdown amid fear and uncertainty about the virus. Since then, Trump and many of his GOP allies have focused on loosening social and economic restrictions as the key to recovery instead of more taxpayer-funded help.
Trump has been anything but consistent. He now insists that lawmakers should “go big” with a bill of up to $2 trillion or more, a total reversal after abandoning the talks earlier this month. But Trump’s political problems aren’t swaying Senate Republicans.
“He’s talking about a much larger amount than I can sell to my members,” McConnell said.
The most recent bill from House Democrats weighs in at $2.4 trillion — or more than $2.6 trillion when excluding a $246 billion tax increase on businesses that’s unlikely to gain GOP acceptance. The package is a nonstarter with Senate Republicans and McConnell, who is making the case for a more targeted approach that’s well south of $1 trillion.
“If Congress doesn’t act the next administration is going to inherit a real mess,” said Harvard economist Jason Furman, a former top Obama adviser. “Economic problems tend to feed on themselves.”
Furman is in the Democratic camp that prefers imperfect stimulus now rather than a larger package in four months or so.
Instead, if history repeats, COVID relief is likely to be the first major item out of the gate next year, but it’s not clear even then that it’ll be as big as Democrats hope.
“Pelosi decided in July that the political benefit of the next package would accrue to the president’s benefit and therefore she was going to layout the most aggressive terms possible,” said veteran GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, who predicts that Pelosi won’t get much more next year than she could have gotten now “unless they’re willing to break the filibuster for a $3 trillion bailout for blue states.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.