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 told reporters "the situation is bleak" while negotiators try to "lean to 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.
McConnell and Republicans have sought to swiftly approve Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett as Democrats argue the next president should decide who will succeed the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The chamber will continue its confirmation hearing on Monday.
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 again urged to bring trillions into the economy during his 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 Tuesday, then reversed course and asked for standalone bills to arrange 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 White House and campaign over the past week, Pelosi stepped up 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.
A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request to comment on Pelosi's letter.
With millions of Americans remaining unemployed, the past few months have seen the lifeline to sustain them through economic shutdowns earlier this year. Additional unemployment insurance and a federal eviction moratorium ended, as did the window of opportunity to apply for loans for the Small Business Paycheck Protection Program.
Unemployment claims remain stubbornly high in the US as hiring slows. Airlines and other major US corporations have laid off or laid off tens of thousands of workers.
This week, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell urged Congress to add more fiscal stimulus, saying it "could lead to a poor recovery and create unnecessary trouble for households and businesses". He said Congress had limited risk of "exaggerating" the relief.
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