McConnell Won’t Support $1.8 Trillion White House Stimulus Bill—Even If Pelosi And Trump Make A Deal

“My members think what we laid out, a half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go.”


Topline

With negotiations for a pre-election federal stimulus bill coming down to the wire, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) threw a wrench in the works on Thursday, saying that the $1.8 trillion plan recently proposed by the White House as a compromise with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and top Democrats is “a much larger amount than I can sell to my members.”

Key Facts

With Pelosi and the White House still trying to find common ground between the $1.8 trillion plan and Democrats’ $2.2 trillion plan, McConnell added that he would not put a bill that large on the Senate floor for a vote.

Without support from McConnell and at least some of his Republican caucus, no deal that the White House makes with Pelosi stands any reasonable chance of becoming law.

According to Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill, Mnuchin told Pelosi Thursday afternoon that Trump would “weigh in” with McConnell about bringing a comprehensive bill to the Senate floor for a vote if Pelosi and the White House are able to reach an agreement.

As an alternative to the more expensive plans under discussion, McConnell announced earlier this week that he would put a smaller, more targeted rescue bill up for a vote when the Senate returns to session on October 19th.

The last time the GOP put a narrow bill (which included just $300 billion in new spending) on the floor of the Senate, Democrats used the filibuster to block it because they thought it was far too small.

President Trump Thursday criticized Mnuchin for not pushing for a deal even larger than $1.8 trillion, telling Fox Business that he had informed the Treasury Secretary of his desire for a bigger bill but so far, Mnuchin “hasn’t come home with the bacon.”


Crucial Quote

“I’m putting on the floor what we think is appropriate to tackle this disease at this point,” McConnell told reporters on Thursday, the Washington Post reported. “My members think what we laid out, a half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go.”


Key Background

McConnell’s statements Thursday illuminated a major, longstanding rift between the Republican party and President Trump. Over the last few weeks Trump has repeatedly and publicly encouraged lawmakers to agree on a larger package, even declaring at one point that he would support a plan bigger than anything either Democrats or Republicans were now advocating. Trump said Thursday morning that the GOP would ultimately fall in line and accept a larger bill, as White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany had earlier suggested. There’s no reason to think that’s likely, however—since the passage of the CARES Act in March, the GOP under McConnell has not signaled it would support anything more expensive than about $1 trillion. McConnell’s explicit rejection of the White House’s plan on Thursday is the latest episode in the long-running disagreement.


Tangent

Despite McConnell’s flat-out rejection of the White House’s offer, Pelosi and Mnuchin continued their discussions in pursuit of a deal on Thursday afternoon. According to Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill, Mnuchin told the Speaker he was prepared to accept Democratic language “with ‘minor’ edits” on a national strategic testing plan—that provision has until now been a major sticking point in negotiations.


What To Watch For

On a Democratic caucus call Thursday, Pelosi was adamant that she is continuing to strive for an agreement in the near term rather than waiting for a more favorable political landscape for Democrats after the election. “I’m not putting anything off until January,” she said, according to the Washington Post. “The last thing I want is to have Joe Biden come in, and we have to sweep behind this elephant in January.”

Forbes — Sarah Hansen contributed to this report.

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