Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could not say for certain if the White House and Congress would be able to come together and pass another coronavirus relief package.
Speaking to reporters at an event at Logan Memorial Hospital in Russellville, Ky., on Wednesday, McConnell (R-Ky.) remarked that “regretfully … the degree of bipartisan cooperation” had “descended” ahead of the November election, leaving the two parties at an impasse.
That impasse, he said, left him unable to know “for sure” whether this divided Congress would be able to pass another bipartisan rescue bill.
“I don’t know if there will be another package in the next few weeks or not,” he admitted.
“We’re giving it our best,” said the Kentucky Republican, who is up for re-election. “It’s harder to do now because we’re so much closer to the election.”
“The cooperative spirit we had in March and April has dissipated as we’ve moved closer and closer to the election.”
Touting Senate Republicans’ proposal for a more focused coronavirus relief package, McConnell said Democrats feel their efforts are “inadequate.”
The Senate’s top Republican then turned to House Democrats’ $3.4 trillion proposal, which he denounced for including proposals unrelated to the coronavirus.
McConnell is poised to unveil a “skinny” coronavirus bill sometime next week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday.
Speaking to the Fox Business Network in an interview, Mnuchin, one of President Trump’s top negotiators in crafting the latest bill, said he and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows had been in daily contact with McConnell and other Senate Republicans by phone.
Mnuchin said McConnell’s bill would focus on children, jobs and liability protections for small businesses — a red line for Republicans.
The timeline matches up with that of Senate GOP Conference Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who told PBS Tuesday morning that the “goal” was to vote on the “skinny” coronavirus relief package sometime next week.
“We have a focused, targeted solution that we hope that the House would pass and the House would agree to,” he said, adding that the legislation was “focused on getting people back to work, getting kids back to school.”
The bill “leaves out … the so many things that Pelosi has put in her bill that are unrelated to coronavirus,” he added, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The bill is estimated to have somewhere between a $500 billion and $700 billion price tag, according to The Hill, a significant drop from the $2.2 trillion Democrats want.
Despite Democrats starting off at $3.4 trillion, the party dropped down to $2.2 trillion in an effort to meet Republicans in the middle. The Trump administration has not gone higher than about $1.3 trillion in its negotiations.
McConnell told fellow Senate GOP lawmakers during a conference call with Mnuchin and Meadows on Tuesday that senators in tough re-election fights wanted to vote on a relief bill as soon as possible, The Hill also reported.
“McConnell wants it. McConnell said today is that every member who’s up [for re-election] who has any hint of vulnerability wants a bill that gets 51 votes,” the source said.