U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his party plans to introduce a “targeted” coronavirus relief package and will hold a vote on it this week.
McConnell’s announcement comes on the heels of an Associated Press report that said hopes are dimming for another coronavirus relief bill. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also told Bloomberg the administration is working with Senate Republicans to secure approval for scaled-down economic stimulus plan.
Talks between top Democrats and the Trump administration broke off last month and remain off track, with the bipartisan unity that drove almost $3 trillion in COVID-19 rescue legislation into law this spring.
Sign up for our Election 2020 newsletter
Expectations in July and August that a fifth bipartisan pandemic response bill would eventually be birthed despite increased obstacles has been replaced by genuine pessimism. Recent COVID-related conversations among key players have led to nothing.
Trump said Monday that Democrats “don’t want to make a deal because they think that if the country does as badly as possible ... that’s good for the Democrats.”
“I am taking the high road,” he told reporters at the White House. “I’m taking the high road by not seeing them.”
All of this imperils the chances for another round of $1,200 direct payments delivered under Trump’s name, the restoration of more generous unemployment benefits to those who’ve lost their jobs because of the pandemic, updates to a popular business subsidy program, and money to help schools reopen and states and local governments avoid layoffs.
“I personally would like to see one more rescue package, but I must tell you the environment in Washington right now is exceedingly partisan because of the proximity to the election,” McConnell said last week. “We’ve been in discussion now for the last month or so with no results so far. So I can’t promise one final package.″
McConnell had been a force for a deal but does not appear eager to force a vote that exposes division in his ranks.
The relationship between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is civil but isn’t generating much in the way of results, other than a promise to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month by keeping a government-wide temporary spending bill free of controversy. That measure is likely to keep the government running into December. It’s likely to contain a bunch of lower-profile steps, such as an extension of the federal flood insurance program and a temporary reauthorization of spending from the highway trust fund.
The decision for a “clean,” controversy-free stopgap bill, known as a continuing resolution, means that both sides will forgo gamesmanship that uses the threat of a government shutdown to try to gain leverage.
The Senate returns to session on Monday. The House doesn’t come back until Sept. 14.