Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) officially broke with the White House on stimulus negotiations on Thursday, saying that Republicans lawmakers won’t support a massive stimulus that the White House and Democrats are negotiating.
“There were discussions going on between the Secretary of the Treasury and the Speaker about a higher amount,” McConnell said of negotiations between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “That’s not what I'm going to put on the floor.”
The Senate Majority Leader’s break with the White House is notable: In early August, McConnell said that the GOP would go along with any deal made between the White House and Democratic lawmakers.
“Leader McConnell is continuing to do what leaders do: protect his caucus as best he can,” Mark Harkins, a former congressional staffer and senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute, told Yahoo Money in an email on Thursday. “He is giving Senate Republicans an opportunity to vote for support to help while blaming the Democrats for blocking it. However, this is not meant to be a solution to the underlying problem just to the political problem.”
Trump ‘is talking about a much larger amount than I can sell to my members’
Mnuchin and Pelosi have been negotiating on behalf of the White House and Democrats, respectively, and are still discussing the Democratic $2.2 trillion proposal and the White House’s $1.8 trillion counterproposal.
“That's where the administration is willing to go,” McConnell said at a press conference in Kentucky. “My members think what we laid out — a half-trillion dollars, highly targeted — is the best way to go.”
McConnell previously indicated that he will put forth a separate stimulus proposal worth $500 billion next week. The bill, likely to be nearly identical to the one that failed in the Senate in September, includes funding for the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), extra unemployment benefits, money for schools, and liability protections for businesses.
The $500 billion proposal is “what I'm gonna put on the floor,” McConnell stressed. “That's what the Republicans — 52 of the 53 of us —feel like it's an appropriate response.”
On Thursday, the president said the White House is even willing to go above the $1.8 trillion, telling Fox Business: "I would, absolutely, I would. I would take more, I would go higher.”
McConnell countered that Trump “is talking about a much larger amount than I can sell to my members.”
McConnell previously cast doubt on whether any stimulus deal could be reached because of “the proximity of the election and the differences of opinion.” Mnuchin echoed those comments on Wednesday, saying “getting something done before the election and executing on that would be difficult.”
Any deal reached by Democrats and the White House would likely face stiff opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, where it would need 60 votes to pass. The Treasury secretary has repeatedly said that negotiations would continue despite the increasingly slim chances of success.