While talks between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnucin on a new coronavirus stimulus bill have stalled again, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last week another bill should not be considered until early next year. That means nothing is likely to pass during the lame-duck session of Congress after the election when lawmakers also have to pass a bill to avoid a government shutdown in December. There still has not been a major coronavirus relief package since the CARES Act passed in March.
"We probably need to do another package, certainly more modest than the $3 trillion Nancy Pelosi package. I think that'll be something we'll need to do right at the beginning of the year," McConnell told radio host Hugh Hewitt on Friday, reports The Hill. The Kentucky Republican, up for re-election on Tuesday, said the bill would target "small businesses that are struggling, and hospitals that are now dealing with the second wave of the coronavirus, and of course the challenges for education, both K-12 and college."
McConnell's timeline is different from other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, who hoped something could be passed before the end of the year. "The motivation level on both sides will depend on how the election comes out, but I think either way we'll do something," Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the Republican whip, said Thursday. "The question is how much." That same day, Pelosi predicted a bill could be passed on before the end of the year because "the American people need help" now, and another package could be passed in 2021 if Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wins.
On Thursday, the chances any relief deal could be reached between Pelosi and the White House soon took a serious hit after the two sides traded public barbs. "Your ALL OR NONE approach is hurting hard-working Americans who need help NOW," Mnuchin wrote in a letter to Pelosi after she published a letter to Mnuchin outlining the differences between the two sides, reports CNN. She criticized the Trump administration for continuing to accept Democratic requests for funding to state and local governments, schools for better safety measures, and federal unemployment insurance. After hearing about Pelosi's letter from the press, Mnuchin called it a "political stunt."
"Two weeks later, the White House still has not lived up to Secretary Mnuchin's promise to accept Democrats' language to crush the virus, and we still are waiting for meaningful responses in the areas the Speaker outlined," Drew Hammill, Pelosi's deputy chief of staff, wrote in response to Mnnuchin's letter. He said the responses were needed so talks "can advance to deliver coronavirus relief as soon as possible" and called it "disappointing" the White House "wasted time on this letter instead of meaningful responses to meet the needs of the American people."
Aside from a law adding more funding to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in April, there has not been a major coronavirus relief package since the CARES Act was signed at the end of March. House Democrats passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act in May, then a $2.2 trillion package in early October. The Senate refused to take up either bill, as Republicans there have balked at spending over $1 trillion on coronavirus relief. McConnell has proposed two "skinny" bills costing $500 billion each, but neither advanced far because he could never get the 60 votes needed.