Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday told reporters that he is not on board with a coronavirus deal with a price tag between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion, which are the two current goalposts being proposed amid talks between Democratic lawmakers and Donald Trump’s White House.
According to The Hill, McConnell is preparing to force a vote on a $500 billion bill next week.
“I don’t think so,” he said of a deal between $1.8 and $2.2 trillion. “That’s where the administration is willing to go. My members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go.”
McConnell’s forthcoming proposal will include more funding for hospitals and testing, protections for businesses facing legal actions from COVID-19-related lawsuits, and additional Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding.
The talks have been stalled for months as both Democrats and Republicans struggle to reach an agreement. In July, Senate Republicans proposed a $1.1 trillion package that was eventually nixed for a smaller bill of $500 billion that received the support of all but one GOP Senator.
According to The Hill, Senate Republicans expressed concern with the high price tag of the bill during a call last weekend with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
During a conversation with Fox Business’ Stuart Varney, Trump revealed that his administration would be open to raising his administration’s current $1.8 trillion proposal for a COVID-19 relief package.
“Absolutely, I would. I would say more. I would go higher. Go big or go home, I said it yesterday.”
The president also accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of dragging down the process by using it for political gain.
“Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to give anything. She thinks it helps her with the election. And I don’t think so. I think it hurts her with the election because everyone knows she’s holding it up. We’re not holding it up. She’s holding it up.”
Along with McConnell, Pelosi has faced scrutiny for her approach to negotiating the forthcoming proposal. As reported by CNN, her interview with the network’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday — which analyst Chris Cillizza called “embarrassing” — received a significant degree of backlash. Notably, Blitzer pushed Pelosi to accept the $1.8 trillion deal and highlighted that many Americans are struggling financially and cannot wait any longer for the funding, which appeared to irritate the Democrat. Nevertheless, Cillizza called Pelosi the “best congressional strategist of her generation.”
At the end of September, Pelosi said she was optimistic about reaching a compromise for a new package with McConnell and his Republican-led Upper Chamber.