Second Stimulus Update: 'Mitch McConnell Is the Obstacle Right Now,' Rep. Ro Khanna Says

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is being labeled "the obstacle" in coronavirus relief package negotiations as talks continue between Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the White House after months of stalled efforts. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) called out McConnell as a "problem" when it comes to Republicans and Democrats agreeing on a package that would help the millions of people suffering amid the pandemic on MSNBC Friday.

"What I've called for is the Speaker to make a deal, not to accept this president's offer," he said of his efforts to bridge the divide between the two parties. "The president was just wrong [about Pelosi stalling negotiations], the problem has been Mitch McConnell." Pointing out that House Democrats passed a $3.4 trillion package five months ago, then a $2.2 trillion bill, Khanna criticized the White House and McConnell as "absent" from their efforts to help the American people.

"Now, the Speaker is negotiating with [Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin]," Khanna continued. "I believe Steve Mnuchin is trying to negotiate in good faith, and every time they make progress, Mitch McConnell comes out and says he is not even going to put it on the Senate floor. So Mitch McConnell really is the obstacle right now in terms of getting a deal."

As one of the few Democrats urging Pelosi to make a deal, Khanna said he was moved by the "suffering in [his] district," which even as one of the most affluent areas of the U.S., has been seeing poverty and economic downturn amid the pandemic. "I think all of us have a moral obligation to get something done," he added. While Pelosi has done an "admirable" job so far negotiating for state and local government assistance, as well as gaining ground with a national testing strategy, Khanna wondered if McConnell would "allow" Mnuchin and Pelosi to come to a compromise. The Congressman also questioned why Trump wouldn't call McConnell to get him on board with giving ground after saying that he was more than capable of doing so during Thursday's town hall broadcast.

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McConnell's recent comments to reporters in Kentucky have shown a divide between the president and Senate Republicans on a fifth coronavirus package, as the GOP leader prepares to force a vote on a $500 billion bill next week. "I don’t think so. That’s where the administration is willing to go. My members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go," McConnell said when asked about the prospect of a deal totalling between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion, which Trump had signalled he was willing to entertain, as per The Hill.

McConnell added that while Pelosi and the White House were negotiating in a higher price range, "that's not what I'm going to put on the floor." Meanwhile, Trump told Fox Business that same day of going higher than $1.8 trillion, "Absolutely, I would. I would pay more. I would go higher. Go big or go home; I said it yesterday. Go big or go home."