Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday that another round of coronavirus relief legislation is likely and may happen “in the next month or so,” but he again insisted that it will be narrower than the $3 trillion package passed by House Democrats earlier this month.
“Many of you are asking, what next? I think there’s likely to be another bill. It will not be the $3 trillion bill the House passed the other day, but there’s still a likelihood that more will be needed,” McConnell said at an event in Louisville, Kentucky, according to The Hill.
The Senate is out of town this week and scheduled to return to Washington on June 1. Republicans have said they want to pause and assess the effectiveness of the trillions in emergency coronavirus funding already provided by Congress, and some White House advisers have questioned whether another round of spending will be necessary.
“We can’t keep propping up the economy forever. We do need to begin to re-engage, to develop our activity again,” McConnell said at another event Tuesday. “The ultimate solution is to begin to get back to normal.”
The keys to getting fully back to normal, he said, would be testing, treatment and a vaccine.
The House-passed HEROES Act included more aid for state and local governments, an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits and another round of direct payments to households. Republicans have declared the bill dead on arrival, and McConnell on Tuesday again derided the package, which included many other provisions, as a “left-wing wish list."
“That ain’t going to happen,” he reportedly said of the $3 trillion legislation. McConnell has advised President Trump that the next coronavirus measure should not be larger than $1 trillion, The Hill says.
Republican requirements: McConnell has not laid out a detailed GOP plan for a next phase of coronavirus relief beyond saying that it be more narrowly focused and must shield businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits. “It ought to be very carefully targeted to correct the mistakes that we certainly made in passing a multitrillion-dollar bill in one week,” he said Tuesday, adding that “there are some other needs that need to be met."
McConnell also said that he supports targeted aid to state and local governments, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, but that the next round of funding can’t be used to address “pre-existing” fiscal troubles. Republicans including President Trump have objected to “bailouts” for blue states that they say have racked up large unfunded pension liabilities or other debt due to mismanagement.
McConnell denied advocating allowing states to declare bankruptcy, the Courier-Journal reported. The Senate Majority Leader last month told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he “would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route,” drawing a sharp backlash from governors and Democratic leaders, who warned that allowing such bankruptcies would worsen the economic damage from the pandemic. McConnell on Tuesday reportedly described that as just a suggestion, not a policy recommendation.
The bottom line: Republicans remain split over the next coronavirus bill, including how big it should be, how quickly it should happen, what it should include and whether there’s even a need for it. So while McConnell signaled that another bill will be in the works, there’s still a long way to go, and the pressure on Republicans is only likely to mount as we get closer to the end of July, when the $600 weekly unemployment benefit is set to expire.