House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are set to meet with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows this evening to begin formal talks on the next coronavirus relief package. The two sides are trillions of dollars apart, and miles apart ideologically on some key issues. CQ Roll Call’s Shawn Zeller notes that the politics of a deal will be harder now, with the election drawing near, than they had been in March, when the CARES Act passed with bipartisan support.
As dissatisfaction with President Trump’s handling of the pandemic continues to run high, Zeller reports that the publication’s Capitol Insiders Survey of 126 congressional aides this month “found that nearly two-thirds of Democratic staffers thought the virus would benefit their side, politically, in November. Only 6 percent of the GOP respondents thought it would help theirs.” Zeller adds that Democratic aides surveyed earlier this month said by a 51-36 margin that they preferred to find areas of compromise than try to gain an edge in the elections.
Still, the reality — and public perception — of the pandemic may stiffen Democrats’ resolve in rejecting the Republican proposal, which they say falls far short of what’s needed. “Democrats don’t sound like a party willing to accept the GOP proposal,” Zeller writes. “But are they willing to take nothing, then, if Republicans refuse to move their way, and if it means millions of constituents will suffer?”
Republicans are in a pickle, though, as some members push for more aid and others object to another round of deficit spending on top of the trillions already provided for coronavirus relief. “There is significant resistance to yet another trillion dollars," said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). “The answer to these challenges will not simply be shoveling cash out of Washington, the answer to these challenges will be getting people back to work. And as it stands now, I think it’s likely that you’ll see a number of Republicans in opposition to this bill and expressing serious concerns.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham said this weekend that Republican opposition to another round of aid runs deep. “Half the Republicans are going to vote no to any phase four package. That’s just a fact,” he said.
Republicans face serious risks, though, if they’re seen to be taking away the lifeline keeping millions of Americans afloat. “McConnell and Trump know it’s likely that voters will blame Trump if the economic hole deepens,” Zeller writes, “and that a Democratic takeover of the White House, and the Senate, may result.”