WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday the Senate would vote on a roughly $500 billion COVID-19 stimulus plan next week, only two weeks before the election, as President Donald Trump urged Republicans to "go big or go home" on stimulus.
McConnell said in a statement the Republican-led Senate's "first order of business" once they return Monday would be to vote on a "targeted" relief plan, including new funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a loan forgiveness program for small businesses.
"Unless Democrats block this aid for workers, we will have time to pass it before we proceed as planned to the pending Supreme Court nomination as soon as it is reported by the Judiciary Committee," he said, referring to the ongoing confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
Both parties head into the election without a stimulus deal in hand and as many of the programs passed in March have lapsed. The PPP loans expired, a federal boost to unemployment benefits ran out, and airlines warned of mass layoffs and furloughs after their federal assistance lapsed at the beginning of the month.
Democrats blocked a $300 billion plan supported by Republicans last month as both sides deadlocked over stimulus negotiations. House Democrats passed their own $2.2 trillion plan earlier this month, but Senate Republicans are unlikely to act on the bill.
Trump briefly pulled out of negotiations last week, telling Senate Republicans he wanted them to focus on Barrett's nomination instead. Since then, the president reversed course, first calling for stand-alone bills on airline relief and $1,200 stimulus checks, and then offering a $1.8 trillion proposal that Democrats rejected as inadequate.
Asked about the White House's proposal, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., told reporters Monday "I like the package we had on the floor," referring to Senate Republicans' previous $300 billion package.
In a letter sent to House Democrats on Tuesday morning, Pelosi reiterated her opposition to the White House proposal, saying in some respects, the White House proposal "makes matters worse."
"A fly on the wall or wherever else it might land in the Oval Office tells me that the President only wants his name on a check to go out before Election Day and for the market to go up," Pelosi said.
The two sides remain at an impasse over the total amount to spend, the level of funding for state and local government assistance, a national COVID-19 testing plan, and election assistance funding, among other provisions.
Pelosi seemed unfazed by McConnell's announcement on a conference call with House Democrats, telling them she was "confident' in their position, according to a source on the call who was granted anonymity to reveal the contents of a private conversation.
"I don’t think our leverage has ever been greater than it is now," she said.
"Even the President is saying, ‘Go big or go home,'" she said in response to concerns some Democrats raised about taking the White House offer and using it as a starting point should former Vice President Joe Biden win the presidency in November.
People in need can’t wait until February. 1.8 trillion is significant & more than twice Obama stimulus. It will allow Biden to start with infrastructure. Obama won in 08 by doing the right thing on TARP instead of what was expedient. Make a deal & put the ball in McConnell court. https://t.co/qAEtd049sW
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) October 11, 2020