CORONAVIRUS

Second stimulus check: what did McConnell say about relief bill?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not share House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s optimism over a deal being struck for a coronavirus aid package.

Second stimulus check: What did McConnell say about relief bill?
JOSHUA ROBERTS REUTERS

As Americans continue to await news of a second stimulus check, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed pessimism that Congress will be able to pass coronavirus relief legislation before the elections.

Bipartisan agreement on stimulus check, but not on stimulus bill

Republicans and Democrats both agree that people in the United States should receive a second stimulus check, which would follow on from the direct payment they got as part of the CARES Act, a $2.2tn relief bill passed in March. Furthermore, US President Donald Trump has also stated his support for another direct payment.

However, attempts to push through a fifth Covid-19 aid package have stalled. The Democrats passed the $3.4tn stimulus bill the HEROES Act in the House in May, but Republicans branded it a “big laundry list of pet [Democrat] priorities” and it was not taken up by the GOP-held Senate. Meanwhile, the Dems say the $1tn HEALS Act, unveiled by Republican senators in July, is inadequate.

Both the HEROES Act and the HEALS Act included provision for a round of stimulus checks of up to $1,200 for those who earn under $99,000.

Republicans, Democrats some way apart on bill valuations

After the release of the HEALS Act, Democrat leaders and White House chiefs failed to find common ground in talks over a relief bill before Congress went on its summer recess. Following the Senate’s return last Tuesday, the House is due back on Monday, leaving only a short window for lawmakers to pass legislation before they are scheduled to go back on recess on 2 October to focus on November's presidential and congressional elections. To make matters worse, this is a busy period in which a government funding bill must also be agreed.

A late August phone call between White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appeared to bring Republicans and Democrats some $500bn closer to compromising on their desired stimulus-bill valuations, but they remain some way apart nonetheless. "We have said again and again that we are willing to come down, meet them in the middle,” Pelosi said. “That would be $2.2tn. When they’re ready to do that, we’ll be ready to discuss and negotiate.”

'Skinny' GOP bill blocked by Democrats

Designed to put pressure on the Democrats by targeting urgent areas such as small business and enhanced unemployment benefits, a ‘skinny’ stimulus bill was tabled by Republicans in the Senate this week, but the proposal - which did not include a second check - failed to advance in the upper chamber, with every Democratic senator rebuffing the $300bn package in a procedural vote.

Pelosi told reporters she was proud to see Senate Democrats, headed up by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), "reject that terrible skinny bill to a massive problem that we have".

McConnell doesn't share Pelosi optimism on relief bill

According to CNN, there have been no talks on relief legislation since then, but Pelosi has spoken of her confidence that a bill can still be pushed through by the end of September, telling the media outlet: "I'm optimistic. I do think that we should have an agreement. That's what we all want."

McConnell struck a rather less upbeat tone on Friday, though, declaring: “I wish I could tell you we were going to get another package but it doesn't look that good right now."

While stimulus checks were not included in Republicans’ pared-down bill, observers in Capitol Hill believe any bipartisan agreement that is finally reached will be for a broader package that would feature another batch of payments, MSN notes.

"I'm not getting good vibrations about any kind of agreement"

However, the outlet’s report concurs with McConnell’s remarks that a deal before the election appears to be unlikely, a view also shared by Bill Hoagland, who is the senior vice-president at the Bipartisan Policy Center and was formerly staff director of the Senate Budget Committee.

Speaking to CNBC this week, Hoagland said: "At least today, I’m not getting good vibrations about any kind of agreement until after the election. Unless something were to break, and pressure really builds, it’s going to be extremely difficult to find a package."

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