Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told a crowd that he isn’t sure whether there will be another COVID-19 relief package.
“We do need another bill and I’m hoping that this impasse will end soon. … [But] I can’t tell you yet here today whether there’s going to be additional relief for health care providers,” McConnell said at an event on Aug. 17 in his home state of Kentucky, The Hill reported.
Earlier this month, negotiations between the White House and Democrats stalled over issues such as federal unemployment benefits and whether to provide funding to state and local governments.
“I’m hoping what we’re talking about today is not that last tranche that we will make, but as of the moment, today, I can’t tell you with certainty we’re going to reach an agreement,” he said, before adding that talks have been bogged down by the looming November election between presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump.
Democrats in the House passed a $3.4 trillion relief package known as the HEROES Act, which also authorized $1 trillion to states and cities, while Republicans unveiled the HEALS Act in July, providing about $1 trillion in all. Later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that they lowered their offer, but that it must be $2 trillion or more.
Trump, meanwhile, issued executive orders earlier in August to provide up to $400 in unemployment benefits per week, deferrals on student loan payments, moratoriums on evictions, and a payroll tax break for people making less than $104,000 per year.
Underscoring their differences, Pelosi told reporters on Aug. 12 that Republicans and Democrats are “miles apart” on reaching a deal. When she was asked about when her next meeting with the White House will be, she said, “I don’t know. When they come in with $2 trillion.”
McConnell said on Aug. 17 that a $2 trillion deal would be “difficult to justify.”
“The House hasn’t been around most of the time and the talks are occurring between the top leaders. … There was no point in keeping them there, we were not voting on other matters,” McConnell said.
At the same time, Trump responded to criticism that he’s refusing to fund the U.S. Postal Service.
“No, we’re not tampering,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News, amid an outcry from Democrats and other critics who accuse him of trying to hamstring the agency to suppress mail-in voting.
“We want to make it run efficiently, run good. We want to make it for less money, much better, always taking care of our postal workers,” Trump added, describing the Postal Service “one of the disasters of the world.”
Trump also expressed support for expanded in-person voting including more voting booths, early voting, and other efforts, while he reiterated his criticism of mail-in voting. Trump has claimed repeatedly that a surge in mail-in voting would lead to fraud in the Nov. 3 election.
Reuters contributed to this report.