WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday that he plans to roll out a targeted coronavirus relief package next week. Minutes later, President Donald Trump followed up with the tweet, “STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!”
The GOP dispute underscores issues between the White House and GOP senators over the price tag for a federal relief bill and whether or not it should include costly items like another round of direct payments to Americans.
During negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, both sides agreed a bipartisan deal would include additional checks. However, McConnell wasn’t part of those talks and his last Senate proposal did not include direct payments.
According to Politico, McConnell says his next package will include funding for the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses.
“Republicans do not agree that nothing is better than something for working families. The American people need Democrats to stop blocking bipartisan funding and let us replenish the PPP before more Americans lose their jobs needlessly,” McConnell said.
McConnell went on to say the Senate will have time next week to consider both Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination and a relief package.
Last week saw a wild back-and-forth on negotiations over a relief package.
On Friday, the White House boosted its COVID-19 aid offer to roughly $1.8 trillion, with a key state and local fiscal relief component moving from $250 billion to at least $300 billion. The White House says its most recent prior offer was about $1.6 trillion.
“I would like to see a bigger stimulus package than either the Democrats or Republicans are offering,” Trump said on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show Friday.
Earlier in the week, Trump lambasted Democrats for their demands on an aid bill. On Tuesday, he ordered an end to the weekslong talks after being told that few Republicans in Congress would end up voting for a possible deal between Pelosi and Mnuchin.
After taking blowback for that decision, Trump sought to revive the negotiations Thursday. Yet even as Mnuchin was reengaging with Pelosi, staffers in the White House — working under chief of staff Mark Meadows, a key negotiator — were issuing demands for a smaller package stuffed with Trump’s priorities.
Democrats have made it clear they will not do a piecemeal approach until the Trump administration signs off on a broader, comprehensive plan they are proposing for virus testing, tracing and other actions to stop its spread. They have scaled back a $3 trillion measure to a $2.2 trillion proposal.
McConnell has previously said he doesn’t see a deal coming together soon out of a “murky” situation in which the participants in the negotiations are elbowing for political advantage.
While stimulus checks have been widely pushed by Democrats, they could also be viewed as a win for the president. When the first round of checks was distributed, Trump’s signature was on each of the payments. If Trump was able to get a second round of relief distributed as people are heading to the polls for early voting, it would certainly be something to brag about before the election.
“I’d like to see us rise above that like we did in March and April but I think it’s unlikely in the next three weeks,” McConnell said to reporters last week.
All this comes as Trump is sliding in the polls and was off the campaign trail for a while due to his battle with COVID-19. The White House is also short-staffed and dealing with infections among its employees, and the president and Pelosi are attacking each other’s mental health.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.