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Pelosi and Mnuchin Get Closer to Deal, but McConnell Doesn't Want Deal Before Election

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Pelosi and Mnuchin Get Closer to Deal, but McConnell Doesn't Want Deal Before Election

2020-10-21 12:36:18

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Mitch McConnell (Image source: Screenshot)

It does not appear there is going to be a stimulus deal before the election. Senate Republicans are worried that they may not fare well in the election if they aren't fiscally responsible. House Democrats know they need to provide voters some financial help to earn their vote, and Donald Trump knows the same, that he needs to get voters some money to be reelected.

This leaves House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)  and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to negotiate a deal while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sits out. He admitted on Tuesday that he warned the White House to not finalize the agreement with Pelosi before the election just two weeks away.

Three people confirmed that at a closed-door lunch for Senate Republicans, McConnell told the others that Pelosi isn't negotiating in good faith with Mnuchin and that any deal reached could disrupt their plans to confirm Trump's Supreme Court pick Amy Coney Barrett next week.

Republicans are worried that a stimulus deal could fracture their party even further when they need to stick together to get Barrett confirmed.

Drew Hammill, Pelosi's spokesman, said of her negotiations with Mnuchin, that the "conversation provided more clarity and common ground as they move closer to an agreement." However, no matter what they come up with, it's never going to hit Trump's desk until McConnell brings it to the Senate floor for a vote. His words to his colleagues make it clear this thing is probably not going to happen in the next couple of weeks before the election.

The majority leader told reporters on Tuesday that if a Trump-supported deal were reached and passed by the House, he would bring it to the Senate floor "at some point," but he made no promises to do so before the election.

Republicans could very well lose control of the Senate as a result of the election, and senators have indicated that voting on a large stimulus deal could end their majority if it scares away their voters.

Donald Trump has been all over the place with a stimulus bill, including blaming Pelosi for holding it up. His latest is to insist he wants a bill worth even more than the $2.2 trillion Pelosi has offered.

The deal they are negotiating would include another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, an extension of the federal unemployment benefits, aid for small businesses, funding for COVID-19 testing, and support for the airline industry and hospitals.

Pelosi denied in a Bloomberg News interview on Tuesday that she was not negotiating in good faith, saying she wouldn't be doing so if she didn't want a deal.

When Trump was asked on Tuesday morning about McConnell dragging his feet on passing a stimulus deal before the election, he said, "He'll be on board if something comes. ... Not every Republican agrees with me, but they will."

Pelosi and Mnuchin have continued their negotiations. They talked for 45 minutes on Tuesday afternoon, going over their differences in the stimulus bill that include liability protections for businesses and state and local aid. The speaker said if they're going to vote by the end of next week, they need to agree on the language of the agreement by the end of this week.

She was asked after her conversation with the secretary whether that deal could be made by the end of the week and replied, "I hope so. That's the plan. That's what I would hope. That's the hope, let me say that."

"On several open questions, the speaker and the secretary called for the committee chairs to work to resolve differences about funding levels and language," said Hammill.

"With this guidance, the two principals will continue their discussions [Wednesday] afternoon upon the secretary's return." Mnuchin has been in the Middle East this week formalizing part of the Trump administration's Abraham Accords.

Also chiming in on the progress of the deal was White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. He told CNBC on Tuesday afternoon that Mnuchin and Pelosi have made "good progress" and that negotiations would continue on Wednesday. He insists, though, that there are still crucial hurdles between them, as the speaker and secretary are "several hundred billion" dollars apart and still haven't agreed on what will be offered to state and local governments.

Meadows also mentioned his conversations with Trump regarding the stimulus negotiations. He noted the president is "very bullish" about not letting the differences stand in the way of a deal.

"I want to stress: we're not just down to a difference of language and a few dollars. We still have a ways to go," he said. "But I would say the conversations today were productive enough to have conversations tomorrow."

Trump isn't worried about the Senate GOP not wanting a deal, insisting they will back a stimulus package if he tells them to. "It's very simple: I want to do it even bigger than the Democrats," he said. "They'll be on board if something comes."

McConnell wouldn't discuss whether he'd spoken with Trump about a deal or whether Republicans would support what the president wants. "We'd have to see what it was first," he told reporters.

Many Senate Republicans are against a huge spending bill, and McConnell doesn't want to hold a vote that would divide his colleagues just before such an important election, and most Senate Republicans are trying to focus on confirming Barrett.

But the longer this waits, the worse the economy gets. The unemployment rate has improved but is still disastrous, the travel industry is barely getting by, and there are concerns about commercial real estate as well. Restaurants continue to go out of business because of lockdown restrictions.

Republicans and Democrats fought over the stimulus on the Senate floor on Tuesday. They want to make an impression on the voters. McConnell called to the floor a bill to add $260 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program. A vote to kill it failed, with some Democrats voting with the Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) accused McConnell of holding "show votes on coronavirus relief."

Showing his disapproval of  Trump's desire for a large bill, McConnell will try to advance a $500 billion stimulus bill on Wednesday. It includes unemployment benefits, funding for school and health care, and new funding for small businesses. It doesn't include measures that Trump and the Democrats are looking for, namely the $1,200 stimulus checks.

Senate Democrats have criticized McConnell for trying to advance an "emaciated" bill that would make it look like they were doing something but really wouldn't solve anything. McConnell tried to push the same bill through last month, and the Democrats turned it down. 

Congress hasn't passed stimulus relief legislation since April. House Democrats have passed two large bills, only to have them rejected in the Senate. A group of Senate Republicans still believe enough money has been spent on relief and that no more is needed.

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