A fifth coronavirus stimulus relief bill likely remains far off after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shot down the prospect of a bill totaling at least $1.8 trillion. His remarks, made to reporters in his home state of Kentucky, showcase the divisions between Trump and Senate Republicans and mark a break with the White House on stimulus relief.
Speaking Thursday, as discussions between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continued, McConnell asked about the prospect of a deal totaling between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion, told reporters, "I don't think so." According to The Hill, while McConnell acknowledged "that's where the administration is willing to go," he said that his "members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go."
His remarks came just after Trump, earlier Thursday, said that he was "absolutely" willing to go higher than his current $1.8 trillion offer, which Pelosi had said was "grossly inadequate." Speaking during a phone interview on Fox Business, he said, "I would pay more. I would go higher. Go big or go home, I said it yesterday. Go big or go home." Shortly after, Mnuchin indicated that he would give ground amid negotiations, stating that, "when I speak to Pelosi today, I'm going to tell her that we’re not going to let the testing issue stand in the way. We'll fundamentally agree with their testing language subject to some minor issues."
Speaking Thursday, McConnell acknowledged that there are ongoing negotiations between Pelosi and Mnuchin and the White House about the higher price range, though he said, "that's not what I'm going to put on the floor." Instead, McConnell announced Tuesday that the Senate will vote on a new proposal, which is much slimmer than the one currently being discussed.
Described as a "targeted" coronavirus stimulus relief bill, the new proposal reportedly has a price tag of just $500 billion, which is $500 billion shy of the GOP's initial offer, the HEALS Act, in July, but equal to that of a second bill that was later proposed. Republicans have long expressed a desire to keep the next relief package under $1 trillion, a price that Democrats have argued does not adequately address the ongoing crisis.
Along with more funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which McConnell claimed is "job-saving," the new proposal will reportedly include money for schools, an unemployment insurance boost, and liability protections for businesses. McConnell has claimed that the proposal calls for a second round of stimulus checks "for those who have been hit the hardest," though it is unclear if the eligibility requirements will be similar to those under the CARES Act. The Senate is scheduled to take up a vote on this proposal upon their return to Capitol Hill on Monday, Oct. 19.