WASHINGTON — Frantic negotiations are expected to continue through the weekend on another round of coronavirus economic relief — even as top Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell express doubt that a deal can be reached before the election in 25 days.
According to multiple reports, President Trump is now eager to reach a deal after ordering an end to the talks between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday — a move that sent the stock market plummeting.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox Business that the president had approved a “revised package” for Mnuchin to offer to Pelosi ahead of a phone call between the pair slated for Friday afternoon.
“The president has approved a revised package. He has approved a revised package. He would like to do a deal,” Kudlow said.
In a subsequent tweet, Trump said: “Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!”
During a “virtual rally” with conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, Trump, who is himself recovering from COVID-19, repeated: “I would like to see a bigger stimulus package, frankly, than either the Democrats or the Republicans are offering.”
It came just days after he ordered Mnuchin to stand down and lashed Pelosi for rejecting what he said was a “very generous” $1.6 trillion relief offer. The commander-in-chief said Democrats were seeking $2.4 trillion.
White House National Economic Council director Larry KudlowGetty Images
With the US economy in an ongoing tailspin from the devastating pandemic, officials are desperate to pump another trillion dollars into the market to provide urgently needed relief.
Congress, however, has been at loggerheads for months, with the two parties unable to agree on how much should be allocated for unemployment benefits and funding for states and local governments.
Unable to wait for delayed financial relief, the nation’s major airlines have begun laying off and furloughing tens of thousands of employees.
According to Politico, senior administration and congressional sources plan to spend all of this weekend, next week and possibly next weekend hammering out the details of a fifth round of aid.
McConnell (R-Ky.) poured water on this idea and told reporters in Kentucky that he did not believe Congress would pass another stimulus package before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
“The situation is kind of murky, and I think the murkiness is a result of the proximity to the election and everybody kind of trying to elbow for political advantage,” McConnell said Friday, according to a CNBC report.
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellEPA
“I’d like to see us rise above that like we did back in March and April, but I think that’s unlikely in the next three weeks,” he went on.
Pelosi and Mnuchin have had near-daily phone calls and in-person discussions to try to find common ground, but even Friday afternoon’s 30-minute call was fruitless, according to Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill.
“Today, the Secretary returned to the table with a proposal that attempted to address some of the concerns Democrats have. Of special concern, is the absence of an agreement on a strategic plan to crush the virus,” Hammill tweeted.
Privately, some Republicans have questioned whether the speaker even wants to pass more relief, according to an Axios report, pointing to the fact she spent Friday unveiling a 25th Amendment commission that could strip Trump of his presidential powers.
Senate Democrats last month blocked a “skinny” Republican stimulus bill costing about $500 billion that included a $300 weekly unemployment subsidy, $105 billion for schools, $20 billion for farmers, $10 billion for the US Postal Service and $10 billion for child care assistance.