Mitch McConnell seems hellbent on tanking coronavirus relief negotiations
Perhaps it's become cliché to point out that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. Still, operating under that definition, it seems perhaps that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is completely mad when it comes to the latest round of will-they-won't-they negotiations over another coronavirus relief package to juice an American economy still reeling from the ongoing pandemic.
I say this because although both Democratic leadership and White House negotiators — including President Trump himself — have each seemingly begun to compromise in their effort to land on a final relief bill price tag, McConnell still remains steadfastly opposed to anything even close to the numbers being discussed by the administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's team. Instead, he's insisted on proposing a dramatically reduced "skinny" bill that would have little chance of actually becoming law.
"What I’ll put on the floor is a half a trillion dollars," McConnell said Thursday, just hours after the president appeared on Fox Business to declare he would support a package more than three times that amount.
"That’s a lot of money," McConnell continued. "Half-a-trillion-dollar program to target the actual needs that the country has." When asked explicitly about the White House's willingness to expand the scope of the bill dramatically, McConnell said, "I don't think so."
This $500 billion proposal is largely the same as one approved by Senate Republicans in September, which McConnell vowed on Tuesday in a press release would be the first order of business for the Senate when it returns from its recess on Oct. 19. That bill failed to get a single Democratic vote.
The president, meanwhile, perhaps keenly aware that his re-election chances hinge in no small part on whether or not voters actually see some progress on the stimulus front, claimed earlier in the day that he had given Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin the green light to go higher than his administration's previous negotiating cap of $1.8 trillion.
Democrats, meanwhile, have proposed a more robust $2.2 trillion package, which not only includes individually targeted measures like enhanced unemployment benefits and another round of stimulus checks for Americans, but also features funds for state and local governments — and, in one of the major sticking points in the negotiations with the White House, expanded funding for COVID-19 testing. Without that, Pelosi explained to her colleagues earlier this week, the administration's offer lacked a "strategic plan to crush the virus."
McConnell, meanwhile, seems dead-set on rejecting anything agreed upon by Democrats and the White House off the Senate floor in favor of his $500 billion plan, which he told Axios was "what we think is appropriate."
And so, with days to go before the Senate returns to business as usual, and with millions of Americans plunging into poverty in the wake of the previous stimulus package's expiration, McConnell will continue to do what he pleases, and on his own schedule.