As the stalemate over another coronavirus relief package continues, these three things all happened on Tuesday:
• Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that the Senate will take up a narrow aid package when it comes back in session next week. The “targeted” package will be similar to one blocked by Democrats last month, including an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits, a renewal of the Paycheck Protection Program of small business loans, money for schools and liability protections for businesses, among other provisions. The package will reportedly total roughly $500 billion.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had urged such a narrow bill focused on the small business program in a letter to lawmakers Sunday.
“Secretary Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Meadows are right: There is no excuse for Democrats to keep blocking job-saving funding for the Paycheck Protection Program while other conversations continue,” McConnell said in a statement. “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.”
• Within minutes, President Trump undercut McConnell by tweeting: “STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!”
• House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic House committee chairs detailed their numerous objections to a $1.8 trillion proposal offered by Mnuchin last week. “A fly on the wall or wherever else it might land in the Oval Office tells me that the President only wants his name on a check to go out before Election Day and for the market to go up,” Pelosi said in a letter to House Democrats. “Tragically, the Trump proposal falls significantly short of what this pandemic and deep recession demand.”
Where does that leave things? Nowhere closer to a new round of relief.
The president seems to have realized that pushing for — or at least publicly calling for — a larger relief package could help him politically. But it may be too late. Trailing in the polls with just three weeks to go before Election Day, it’s not clear whether Trump has enough sway in his own party to overcome a sizable Senate GOP backlash to a bigger stimulus. “Trump’s current political standing seems to have hurt his ability to persuade Senate Republicans to embrace more deficit spending,” Politico’s Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan write.
So Republicans and the White House can’t get on the same page, Democrats may again block the Senate GOP bill and Pelosi shows no signs of relenting to some calls from members of her own party to accept the White House’s $1.8 trillion offer — let alone of caving and agreeing to piecemeal legislation she has long opposed.
“We need an agreement, but we cannot get an agreement just by folding. Our leverage has never been greater,” Pelosi reportedly told her members on a conference call Tuesday.
Why it matters: Economists continue to warn that a failure by Congress to provide additional aid could result in more job losses and suffering. “There are millions of people in a desperate position right now,” Michele Evermore, a national unemployment expert at the National Employment Law Project, told The Washington Post. “And without further action, this economic pain will spill out into the community.”