Stimulus Update: Mitch McConnell to Take the Lead on Negotiations as Trump, White House Sit Out

As lawmakers prepare to return to Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell will reportedly lead stimulus relief negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the lame duck session. Although Pelosi had been negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, their discussions broke last week, and the White House is said to be sidelining itself from any further discussions.

This latest update comes from The Washington Post. In a Nov. 6 report, the outlet, citing a person familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that "there is little sign" that Pelosi and Mnuchin will resume their discussions. Instead, the Trump administration has reportedly indicated that it will allow McConnell, who won his re-election bid for a seventh six-year Senate term, to take the lead on any new discussions that arise in the coming days and weeks as Congress reconvenes Monday.

The news comes after Pelosi, in a Nov. 6 press conference, called on Republicans to "come back" to the negotiation table to hash out a final package. Addressing a room of reporters, the house speaker stressed the urgent need for additional relief, stating that "while we prepare for the new Biden administration, we must also move swiftly for a new coronavirus relief bill" and calling on Republicans "to come back to the table."

While McConnell has expressed interest in passing an additional relief package, stating just last week that "we need to do it before the end of the year," it is unclear whether the two sides will be able to work together to reach an agreement. Pelosi and Mnuchin had been speaking for months, and while they made some significant progress in recent weeks, a final bill has yet to come to fruition. The difficulty it will take for Pelosi and McConnell to see eye-to-eye was highlighted on Friday. Discussing the October job's report, which saw a 6.9% jobless rate, McConnell said that he believes "it reinforces the argument that I’ve been making for the last few months, that something smaller – rather than throwing another $3 trillion at this issue – is more appropriate," according to Reuters.

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Pelosi, who had reportedly been negotiating a bill in the range of $2 trillion with Mnuchin, responded by stating, "it doesn’t appeal to me at all, because they still have not agreed to crush the virus. If you don’t crush the virus, we're still going to have to be dealing with the consequences of the virus. That isn't anything that we should even be looking at. It wasn't the right thing before."

According to the Post, if an agreement is not reached during the current lame duck session, "it will fall to the new president to negotiate an aid package." Business Insider reports that president-elect Joe Biden "may also jump into the negotiations…in the coming weeks."