Senate Republicans were not pleased with the tentative stimulus relief package deal the Trump Administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi discussed early Saturday, confirming there is little chance anything could get done before the election in three weeks. Following a confounding week that began with President Donald Trump cutting off all stimulus talks before the election and ending with Trump saying talks were "starting to work out" on Thursday, his administration proposed a $1.8 trillion relief package. This offer was just above their previous offer of $1.6 trillion, but still short of the House Democrats' recent $2.2 trillion package.
On Saturday morning, Republican Senators appeared to signal they wouldn't support any deal before the election during a conference call with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, reports Politico. The senators believed the White House was offering too much. "There's no appetite right now to spend the White House number or the House number," Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is not running for re-election, said during the call, according to sources.
Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming said giving into anything Pelosi is asking for would be seen as "an enormous betrayal by our supporters." Tennessee's other Senator, Marsha Blackburn, said the deal would be the "death knell" for the party's majority in the Senate if Pelosi gets "this win." Sen. Mike Lee of Utah also warned Republicans would lose support and voting on a stimulus deal now would take time away from getting Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida theorized a stimulus package would slow economic recovery.
Pelosi did not support the administration's latest offer either. In a letter to her Democratic colleagues, she called the offer "one step forward, two steps back" and highlighted the differences in priorities the two sides have. "A key concern is the absence of any response on a strategic plan to crush the virus," Pelosi wrote. "We cannot safely reopen schools, the economy and our communities until we crush the virus with the science-based, national plan for testing, tracing, treatment and isolation, and for the equitable and ethical distribution of a safe and effective vaccine once developed." She noted that the HEROES Act passed by the House did include this "strategic plan."
Talks between Mnuchin and Pelosi only recently resumed after the two sides were never able to reach a deal on another major package to follow March's CARES Act over the summer. Trump threw a wrench into the process during the week, first tweeting on Tuesday that the White House would not negotiate any longer and there would be no new stimulus package until after the election. The stock market plummeted after he made that decision, and he slowly walked it back over the week. In his Thursday interview with Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo, he said talks were "starting to work out." Then on Friday, he surprisingly told Rush Limbaugh he wanted a "bigger stimulus package frankly than either the Democrats or Republicans are offering," even though he signed off on Mnuchin's $1.8 trillion offer.