President Trump said Thursday he’d agree to a coronavirus relief package larger than the $1.8 trillion his administration offered last week, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly shot down the idea.
Asked in an interview on the Fox Business Network if he would raise his offer to Pelosi, Trump repeated a message he had tweeted earlier in the week: "I would. Absolutely, I would. I would say more. I would go higher. Go big or go home, I said it yesterday. Go big or go home.”
Trump sought to blame House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for the lack of an agreement. “Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to give anything. She thinks it helps her with the election,” Trump said. “We’re not holding it up, she’s holding it up.”
Asked if he would pick up the phone to call Pelosi with a higher offer, Trump attacked the speaker. “She's got a lot of problems,” he said. “She got a lot of mental problems. And it's going to be very hard to do anything with her. She wants to wait ‘til after the election.”
Trump also expressed some frustration with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has been negotiating with Pelosi, saying that Mnuchin had thus far failed to convince the speaker to accept a deal. “I’ve told him. So far, he hasn’t come home with the bacon," the president said.
Pursuit of a deal continues: Mnuchin on Thursday said that Pelosi’s “all or nothing approach doesn’t make sense for the American people,” but he also indicated Thursday he was prepared to give some ground to get a deal, saying that the White House won’t let differences with Pelosi over Covid testing provisions in a relief package — one obstacle the speaker has cited repeatedly — stand in the way of reaching a deal.
“That issue is getting overblown,” Mnuchin said Thursday morning on CNBC. He added that the administration has agreed to $178 billion in health care funding and $75 billion for testing and contact tracing. “What we have been focused on is the language around testing,” he said. “When I speak to Pelosi today, I’m going to tell her that we’re not going to let the testing issue stand in the way. We’ll fundamentally agree with their testing language subject to some minor issues.”
Deep divisions between Trump and Senate Republicans: While Trump said in his interview that Republicans “are willing to do” the larger deal he called for, McConnell made clear that isn’t the case. The Republican leader has set up a vote next week on a roughly $500 billion GOP package, and he indicated Thursday that Senate Republicans would balk at a deal as big as Trump is floating. “That’s where the administration’s willing to go,” McConnell said during an appearance in Kentucky. “My members think what we laid out— a half a trillion dollars, highly targeted — is the best way to go.”
Why it matters: McConnell’s comments are a reminder that any agreement between the White House and Pelosi would only be the first step in getting another relief package passed — and that deep divisions between the White House and Senate Republicans could scuttle the chances for another bill even if Mnuchin and Pelosi can reach a hard-fought deal. Trump, meanwhile, continues to inject uncertainty into the proceedings and to provide more leverage for Pelosi as she holds out for a bigger package.
The bottom line: A pre-election deal still seems unlikely.