Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday said it’s not clear whether Democrats and the White House will come to an agreement on a COVID-19 relief package before the November elections.
“I don’t know if there will be another package in the next few weeks or not,” McConnell told reporters in Kentucky, adding that partisan tensions are high at the moment, meaning that it’s unlikely a bipartisan bill would be passed. The $2.2 trillion CARES Act was passed largely along bipartisan lines in March, coming just weeks after the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus first hit the United States.
Talks between the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have remained at an impasse since early August. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Pelosi spoke over the phone for 36 minutes on Tuesday, according to Pelosi’s office, but she suggested that no progress was made.
“Sadly, this phone call made clear that Democrats and the White House continue to have serious differences understanding the gravity of the situation that America’s working families are facing,” Pelosi said in a statement after she spoke with Mnuchin.
For his part, Mnuchin testified in front of Congress and said that portions of the U.S. economy are in desperate need of additional stimulus to rebound from the CCP virus crisis. He called for a bipartisan deal in Congress to “deliver some relief quickly to the American workers impacted by this.”
The most contentious issues are whether to provide hundreds of billions of dollars to state and local jurisdictions, expanded unemployment payments, and liability protections for businesses.
Democrats have offered to lower their demand for an approximately $3.5 trillion package to around $2.2 trillion. Republicans in the Senate put forth a $1 trillion plan known as the HEALS Act, but they are now reportedly discussing whether to pass a $500 billion package that is more focused.
In his remarks on Tuesday, Mnuchin said the travel industry, airline companies, and small businesses need fiscal aid. On Wednesday, United Airlines said in a memo that it will have to furlough or cut about 16,000 jobs by Oct. 1 after certain CARES Act provisions expire, while American Airlines previously said it will have to cut about 19,000 employees.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of the GOP’s leadership, told reporters at the Capitol that the Senate wants to consider the new legislation when it returns next week. Some Republican senators oppose any additional stimulus.
Mnuchin also told Fox News on Tuesday that he hopes McConnell introduces “new legislation next week” when the Senate returns.