McConnell says will try to move $500 billion stimulus package before Barrett vote

WASHINGTON, DC – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L) listens to U.S. President Donald Trump talk to reporters while hosting Republican congressional leaders and members of Trump’s cabinet in the Oval Office at the White House July 20. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he intends to give Democrats another chance to help pass a fiscal stimulus package, by trying to bring to the Senate floor a $500 billion plan next week.

McConnell’s announcement came after President Donald Trump, lagging in the polls, had urged lawmakers to “go big” on a stimulus deal over Twitter.

McConnell’s plan, though, would be far smaller than the sweeping $2.2 trillion bill passed by the House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her fellow Democrats they still had the upper hand in bargaining.

“Again, we really need to have an agreement, but we cannot have an agreement by just folding. I don’t think our leverage has ever been greater than it is now,” she told members of the Democratic caucus on a phone call, according to a source on the call.

As the Nov. 3 general election draws nearer, each side in the negotiations – House Democrats, Senate Republicans and the White House – wants to avoid blame for there being no large follow-up to the $1.7 trillion CARES Act passed in March, but with talks dragging on for weeks the outline of a common approach becomes harder to see.

Markets have also started to pay less attention to the possibility of a stimulus package enacted before the election. Stocks were down modestly Tuesday afternoon

The latest go-round was kicked off by Trump on Twitter Monday. He urged lawmakers to cut short hearings on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett and get to work on a stimulus deal. That was the opposite of what he had tweeted he wanted Senate Republicans to do Oct. 6.

McConnell, in announcing another try, said there was time for senators to do both – if Senate Democrats agreed. Previous attempts to move standalone or targeted packages have been blocked by Democrats in the chamber.

“When the full Senate returns on October 19th, our first order of business will be voting again on targeted relief for American workers, including new funding for the PPP. 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,” McConnell said in a statement.

“We’re going to try one more time,” McConnell said at a campaign stop in Kentucky. McConnell said the package would include a revival of the popular Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, enhanced unemployment insurance and liability protections for businesses and non-profits, an issue that has been a sticking point with Democrats.

In her call with her caucus , Pelosi said she understood the pressure to reach a deal but she said Trump was moving in the Democrats’ direction.

“I appreciate the, shall we say, a couple of people saying, ‘Take it, take it, take it.’  Take it?  Take it?  Even the President is saying, ‘Go big or go home.,” she said, referring to a Tweet Tuesday by Trump.

“And it’s not just about the money, it’s about how it is spent.” Pelosi said. “We have to find common ground, we want to do it in a unifying way.  But common ground is not saying, ‘Oh, it’s whatever you want, we’ll just do it, because, you know, we’re getting tired of it.’” 

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