Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday that he doesn’t expect Congress and the White House to come to an agreement on COVID-19 relief, although the Trump administration made another offer worth $1.8 trillion hours later.
“I think the murkiness is a result of the proximity to the election, and everybody kind of trying to elbow for political advantage. I’d like to see us rise above that … but I think that’s unlikely in the next three weeks,” McConnell told reporters in Kentucky, referring to the on-and-off-again negotiations that have last since the summer.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows have held talks on stimulus aid since late July, although there was a period where both parties were not negotiating. Pelosi offered $2.2 trillion, while the White House recently offered $1.6 trillion.
On Friday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said President Donald Trump would up the offer to $1.8 trillion, coming about $400 billion less than what Pelosi had proposed.
“Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
But McConnell said he is skeptical that such a deal can be made.
“We do need another rescue package,” McConnell said. “But the proximity to the election and the differences about what is needed at this particular juncture are pretty vast.”
If Democrats in the House come to an agreement with the White House, it’s not clear if there are enough votes in the Senate to go forward.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said that it is not clear if there would be 13 Republican votes to pass a bill if every Democratic senator supports it.
“Could you pass it? Maybe. But you’re going to pass it with 47 Democrats and 13 Republicans, and that’s depending on what that number is. I don’t know where the 13 Republicans would come from,” Thune said.
Trump initially withdrew from the negotiations this week only to regain interest in forging a bipartisan accord.
“I do hope that we will have an agreement soon,” Pelosi said on MSNBC. She emphasized aid for state and local governments to help pay salaries for police, healthcare workers, and other first responders.
For several months, Congress has struggled to reach an agreement on more stimulus legislation. Negotiations collapsed in early August and prompted Trump to sign several executive orders including $300-per-week federal unemployment benefits, student loan aid, eviction aid, a suspension of payroll taxes, and more.
On Friday, Wall Street’s main indexes rose, setting up the S&P 500 and the Dow for their second straight weekly gain on hopes of more federal fiscal aid. Recent trading on Wall Street has been dictated by negotiations in Washington on more stimulus as signs of a slowdown in the domestic economic recovery sparked calls for more aid for businesses and households.
Reuters contributed to this report.