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Senate GOP Upset with Mnuchin for Agreeing to a Figure of $1.9 Trillion for Stimulus

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Senate GOP Upset with Mnuchin for Agreeing to a Figure of $1.9 Trillion for Stimulus

2020-10-23 18:37:16

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Steve Mnuchin (Image source: Screenshot)

As much as Donald Trump wants this to be a fight pitting Republicans against Democrats, it's more Republicans against Republicans. He said on Thursday's debate that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was holding up an agreement on the stimulus package, but it's clear that behind the scenes, it's the Republicans disagreeing with the Republicans.

Everyone seems to be on a separate page, and ultimately, while this legislation is intended to put money in Americans' pockets to help the economy, too many of the players here are thinking of themselves. Trump wants to cut checks to voters before the election, and lawmakers who are up for reelection want to either show voters that they're behind getting them money or that they're behind saving them money.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) disagrees with Trump and also disagrees with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Trump's proxy in the negotiation process. There are even some Republicans who don't want any stimulus package.

McConnell isn't the only one who disagrees with Mnuchin — and Trump for that matter. Mnuchin introduced a package initially for $1.8 trillion, much more than GOP senators wanted to pay. Pelosi is supporting a package worth about $2.2 trillion. Trump wants even more than what the speaker wants and insists senators will approve it if he wants them to.

Other Republicans think Mnuchin is making way too many concessions to Pelosi. He upped his ante to $1.9 trillion, disappointing Republicans.  Worse yet, it also includes at least $300 billion for state and local aid, when Senate GOP has made it clear they do not support providing money to states and local jurisdictions.

Mnuchin is also accepting some of Pelosi's policies she wants included. This includes reducing the payments to farms so that some of that money could go to food boxes, said two people who are involved in the talks.

"He negotiates harder with his own side than he does with her. Folks over here are sick of it," said a Senate GOP aide. The aide added that Republicans are "reaching a boiling point with him" as the Treasury secretary "gives and gives and gives and gets nothing in return."

Another aide said, "Fair to say the feeling is he's giving away the store. No one is surprised, but yes, frustrated. The idea that our conference is going to go along with whatever bad deal he cuts with Pelosi is completely unrealistic."

For her part, Pelosi is sharing that she is optimistic about her negotiations with Mnuchin. She believes she has leverage on her side since Trump wants a deal so close to the election.

"The president wants a bill. The president wants a bill. And so that's part of the opportunity that we have," she said on Thursday.

She reported that she and Mnuchin had nearly come to terms on a national testing strategy for coronavirus, something Democrats have been wanting. She also acknowledged that there are other hurdles that remain unsettled. This includes aid for state and local governments and a Republican wish for liability protections for businesses.

While she would like a deal before the election, Pelosi has indicated the substance of the deal is more important than the timeline. "We wouldn't take less of a bill to get it sooner," she said. "We want the best bill."

Yet still, the Senate GOP has been clear that they do not want a huge spending bill. Despite this, Mnuchin continues to negotiate and give up more of what Republicans are looking for.

McConnell wants to keep the Republicans on the same page, as hanging over all this is the confirmation hearing for Trump's Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett. McConnell can't lose more than three Republican votes, as it means the senators won't vote to confirm Barrett. He needs to keep everyone together.

Pelosi is unconcerned about McConnell and the rest of the GOP. "I can't answer for the disarray on the other side," she said. "It's up to him [Trump] to deliver what can happen on the Senate side."

Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) said it would be difficult to get 13 Senate Republicans to support a deal like the one Pelosi and Mnuchin are discussing. That's the magic number of Republicans that will be needed to flip and approve a deal.

"There are not 13 votes for this pile of crap Mnuchin is capitulating on," said another Senate GOP aide.

McConnell has agreed, though, to put a Pelosi/Mnuchin deal to a vote; however, he hasn't promised when that would happen.

As  Trump's proxy, it's not known how much of this is coming from the president, though he's made it clear he wants a big deal. 

"There are concerns about the direction inside the White House, but at the end of the day, Mnuchin takes direction from the president," said a GOP aide.


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