While momentum is gaining for the targeted $908 billion coronavirus relief bill in Congress, President Donald Trump does not support it. Although he told reporters on Thursday he approved of a new stimulus package, a White House spokesperson later clarified to The New York Times and Washington Post that Trump supported a narrower stimulus package previously introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, not the larger stimulus plan. President-elect Joe Biden voiced support for the measure but said it was only a starting point.
On Thursday, reporters asked Trump if he supported "this bill." Trump answered in the affirmative, telling reporters he would sign another stimulus package. "I think we are getting very close," he said. It was initially unclear what bill Trump was referring to, but the White House later said he was voicing support for a smaller Republican package McConnell introduced on Tuesday.
McConnell's bill was similar to the previous two $500 billion packages that failed in the Senate because Democrats argued they were too small. The new proposal included $257 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a one-month extension for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, and liability protections for businesses and healthcare providers, reports Forbes. After the bill was introduced, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters Trump would sign it, reports Reuters.
However, the situation has changed since Tuesday. On Thursday, McConnell spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the first time since the Nov. 3 election, reports the Post. The two also talked about another spending bill to keep the government running beyond Dec. 11. McConnell called it a "good discussion" and said they are both "interested in getting an outcome, both on the [spending bill] and on a coronavirus package."
In addition, several Republican Senators have shown support for the package, including Sens. Joni Ernst, Chuck Grassley, Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, and Kevin Cramer. Grassley said the bill's cost was still "a little high for me," but "more important for me are the things that are in it. And if everything in it has bipartisan support... the figure might not be the biggest thing."
Although the package has its support, the Post notes it has not been formally drafted yet. The package would include $300 billion for small business aid, $160 billion in funds for state and local governments, federal unemployment benefits at $300 per week, and more aid for vaccine distribution, child care, and other concerns. The measure does include the liability shield Democrats have long opposed though. It also does not include another stimulus check. "Compromise is within reach," McConnell said on the Senate floor without specifically voicing support for the new package. "We know where we agree. We can do this."