Trump aide Meadows unsure Senate GOP will approve a $1.8 trillion coronavirus stimulus

Sahil Kapur
·3 min read

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's top aide Monday cast doubt on whether Senate Republicans would back a deal for coronavirus aid before the election that the administration is negotiating with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said he remains hopeful a deal can be reached in the next 48 hours, but cautioned that it's "too early to tell" whether enough Republicans in the Senate would support a large spending package.

Meadows said "Senate Republicans have been very vocal" in opposing a dollar figure "even close to" the $1.8 trillion that Trump has backed.

"I can tell you this, that there are some in the Senate who would support it. Whether there's enough votes to get to the 60 vote threshold, that's up to Leader McConnell," Meadows told reporters outside the White House.

One sticking point remains the final cost of the bill: House Democrats want at least $2.2 trillion in spending; the president has endorsed going big; but Senate Republicans are reluctant.

The disconnect between Trump, who recently backed a passing a large relief package, and Republican senators, who have for months opposed a high price tag, could undercut efforts to approve more aid before the election. Getting to a deal has been a priority for Trump, who is trying to shore up his standing with voters who have given him poor ratings for his handling of the virus.

Meadows said Trump is not contacting individual senators to try to build support because the administration hasn't gotten close enough to a deal.

Talks between the administration and congressional Democrats are ongoing. Pelosi, D-Calif., and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin plan to speak again at 3 p.m. ET on Monday, a source familiar with the matter said.

Meadows faulted Pelosi for being "very rigid in her negotiation" tactics, characterizing the Democratic Speaker's approach as "her way or the highway, it's all or nothing." Pelosi has accused the administration of seeking to water down language on a national testing strategy and refusing to fund needed relief for health care workers and struggling communities.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., plans to hold a vote Wednesday on legislation to grant $500 billion in relief, including enhanced jobless benefits and aid for schools and businesses. That vote is expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed in the Senate.

Meadows said McConnell "has agreed" to bring a bipartisan deal between the White House and Pelosi to a Senate vote. When asked, his office pointed to a statement Saturday in which the Kentucky Republican blamed Pelosi for the lack of a deal and promised to "consider" any proposal.

"If Speaker Pelosi ever lets the House reach a bipartisan agreement with the Administration, the Senate would of course consider it," McConnell said.

McConnell's top priority is to secure the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the election. Her nomination is expected to receive a Senate vote next week, days before Election Day.