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McConnell's $500B Stimulus Bill Blocked, White House Wants Deal in 48 Hours

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McConnell's $500B Stimulus Bill Blocked, White House Wants Deal in 48 Hours

2020-10-22 17:06:16

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

This close to Election Day, the White House and Congress all want to show voters what they're doing for them, especially when it comes to money. Some want to show their voters they saved them money, some want to show voters that they bargained and stuck to their guns to get money for them, and one person in particular wants to hand the green over to voters directly.

With the economy hurting and expected to fall again because of another big surge in the number of coronavirus cases, a topic on many people's minds is another stimulus relief bill. Between the Senate Republicans, House Democrats, and the White House, they just can't agree on the content of the legislation and can't decide on the dollar amount. 

With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin getting closer to a deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is far, far apart. The GOP does not want to spend the $2.2 trillion Pelosi is angling for or the $1.78 trillion Mnuchin, negotiating as proxy for Trump, is pushing. Some Republicans believe no more should be spent.

With that as the backdrop. McConnell brought a pared-down $500 billion relief bill to the Senate floor. Actually, he was reintroducing it after it initially failed last month. However, Senate Democrats blocked it. It failed 51 to 44, along party lines, leaving it short of the 60 votes that are needed.

Republicans argued that the Democrats are waiting for a wish list that is far too expensive, with many provisions unrelated to the pandemic or the economic crisis that it caused. McConnell accused Democrats of an "all-or-nothing obstruction."

Democrats threw it right back, accusing Republicans of not recognizing the economic despair that has been created by the coronavirus. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has referred to McConnell's plan as "partisan" and "emaciated."

The plan included funding for a second Paycheck Protection Program loan, a $300 federal unemployment benefit, and liability protections for businesses. It did not include a second round of $1,200 checks for Americans.

Pelosi and Mnuchin continued their work to reach a deal, with her office saying they moved closer to being able to write legislation. The two were scheduled to speak again Thursday.

Trump is pushing for a relief bill that includes the $1,200 payments, wanting to give that to voters before November 3. He's even indicated he wants the bill to be more than the $2.2 trillion Pelosi has offered. But the closer he gets to what Democrats are asking, the more it distances him from Republican support. 13 Republican votes would be needed to pass it in the Senate.

"If they're going to come up with a $2 trillion bill that is going to put money on items that are not needed directly related to COVID, then that is not a direction we should travel," said Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

McConnell told his caucus that he encouraged the White House to not make a deal before the election, as it would further divide the Republicans at a time when they need all but three votes to confirm Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

He couldn't be further from the White House, with a push to have a deal within 48 hours. "I am optimistic. We do share one goal, and that is hopefully to get some kind of deal in the next 48 hours or so," White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Wednesday morning of the talks with Pelosi.

He noted the discussions had entered a "new phase" as the two sides are arguing over language of the bill, though he also acknowledged they still have not agreed on the dollar amount of the bill.

"I can tell you that the negotiations have entered a new phase, which is more on the technical side of trying to get the language right if we can agree upon the numbers," Meadows explained. "We are still apart, still a number of issues to work on, but the last 24 hours have moved the ball down the field."

White House communications director Alyssa Farah was looking at a potential deal the same way. "The president's position is we're willing to go up on the number for [Paycheck Protection Program] loans and the direct payments," she told reporters later on Wednesday.

"Some of the issues still surround state and local and some of the other issues, but were at the table, conversations are happening. I think it's kind of the best place we've been in, so cautious optimism." 

Meadows denied he'd received the warning from McConnell to not make a deal and believes he'll have the GOP support for a deal. "The focus on Senate Republicans right now and whether the votes will be there or not is misplaced focus. It needs to be focused on Speaker Pelosi and is she going to be reasonable," he said.

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