WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – The Senate is set to vote this week on a $ 500 billion “thin” economic recovery proposal that does not appear to include a further round of $ 1,200 direct payments to Americans.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced plans for a vote Wednesday. He says the bill will include money for schools, extended unemployment benefits and additional funding for the payroll protection program
“No one thinks this $ 500B + proposal will solve any problem forever,” McConnell said in a statement on Saturday. “It would provide huge amounts of extra help to workers and families right now, while Washington continues to quarrel about the rest.”
The “thin” bill is in stark contrast to a much larger package that would include an additional $ 1,200 direct payments pushed by President Donald Trump, showing a gap not only between Democrats and Republicans – but within GOP leadership.
When the Senate votes on the measure this week, it will be largely symbolic. Democrats have gone on record, saying they are not interested in a less-drilled approach to virus relief.
Last month, Democrats filibustered a GOP draft aid bill that did not include a second round of direct payments to Americans, and recent negotiations on a major deal between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, have not made much progress. .
Mnuchin recently told CNBC that a coronavirus aid announced before the election could be problematic, if not unlikely.
“At this point, it will be difficult to get something done before the election and carry it out,” Mnuchin said.
Mnuchin said progress has been made on certain issues, but on other issues “they are still far apart.”
“Let’s not wait for the big bang where everything is perfect,” Mnuchin told CNBC. “I do not agree with the speaker’s approach that we should do everything or nothing. We continue to negotiate a comprehensive bill, but we want to put money into the economy now. ”
According to the Washington Post, Pelosi and Mnuchin continued negotiations on Saturday on a spending deal between $ 1.8 trillion and $ 2.2 trillion. Trump has said he will support even more, noting during Thursday’s town hall with NBC that Republicans “agree.”
“They’re going,” he told moderator Savannah Guthrie. “I did not ask them for it because I can not get through Nancy Pelosi.”
Right now, GOP senators do not seem willing to “go.”
McConnell and his colleagues in the Senate have expressed little or no interest in a bill that is larger than the bill of approx. $ 500 billion they will roll out. Many political insiders speculate that Republican lawmakers are worried about cutting a major spending bill with the polarizing Pelosi just weeks before control of the Senate is given into the hands of voters.
Similarly, experts question whether Pelosi would cut a deal with Republicans less than three weeks before a tight presidential election. While stimulus control has been pushed broadly by Democrats, they could also be considered a victory for the president. When the first round of checks was distributed, Trump’s signature was on each of the payments. If Trump was able to get another round of relief aid distributed when people are on their way to the early voting, it would certainly be something to brag about before the election.
“A fly on the wall or anywhere it lands 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 her colleagues last week.
She defended her tough position, arguing that Democrats have more leverage than ever. But the risk of coming forward empty-handed next year appears very real.
Talks on the latest potential round of COVID relief began in July, collapsed in August and were revived last month. Two weeks ago, we saw Trump collapse the talks, only to revive them on the way into the weekend. They then cratered again last weekend after Trump’s latest $ 1.8 trillion proposal caught fire from both Democrats and Trump’s GOP allies.
Republicans are back to offering less targeted help that allows threatened party members to go back on record in favor of aid, even if it is a nonstarter with Democrats and against Trump.
“What I hear from Senator McConnell is again to take a small piece and be satisfied. What I hear from the president is just the opposite, ”said Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill. Can the two sit down and agree? Wouldn’t that be a breakthrough? ”
Some Democrats are convinced that Joe Biden is ready to recapture the White House and have pressured Pelosi to enter into a less ambitious deal that provides aid now rather than let the economy continue to struggle without help until next year. Pelosi’s response was to gather statements from a number of committee chairmen who criticized the administration’s recent offer.
“If Congress does not act, the next president will inherit a real mess,” said Harvard economist Jason Furman, a former top adviser to President Barack Obama. “If the Mnuchin offer could be passed by the Senate – which is a big ‘if’ – it would be much better than waiting to get even more in January.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.