Amidst continued uncertainty over the future of a second stimulus bill, President Donald J. Trump appears to be moving closer to the Democrats' $2.2 trillion proposal, even while Senate Republicans continue to pull further away.
The president said on Fox Business Network Thursday that he had told Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is negotiating with Democrats on behalf of the White House, that Mnuchin could offer more than $1.8 trillion — the amount most recently proposed by the administration — in stimulus spending.
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"I've told him," Trump said. "So far, he hasn't come home with the bacon."
Trump's comments came the morning after Mnuchin suggested that it was unlikely a deal would be reached before Election Day. Mnuchin is still in talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), but the two are at odds over the specific details of the relief package as well as the total amount of spending.
Devil's in the details
House Democrats, led by Pelosi, recently passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill that would provide another round of $1,200 checks to eligible Americans, restart federal supplements to state unemployment benefits, and give aid to state and local governments to address coronavirus and shore up tax-deprived budgets.
The latter detail, along with providing extra funding for lab testing, has drawn resistance from the White House and many Republicans, who are primarily focused on creating liability protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits for businesses.
Pelosi has refused to budge on her position despite pleas from many lawmakers within her own party to pass a compromise bill. She has turned down numerous counter-offers from the administration — a strategy that may be paying off, judging by Trump's recent statements.
The president tweeted on Thursday that he was "ready to sign" a stimulus bill as soon as a deal is reached. However, he may not want to seem like he's capitulating to Pelosi's demands.
Fox Business Network's Stuart Varney asked Trump this morning, "Why not just go with Speaker Pelosi’s $2.2 trillion deal?”
"Because she's asking for all sorts of goodies," Trump answered, according to Politico. "She wants to bail out badly run Democrat states and cities. She wants money for things that you would never — you just couldn’t — just your pride couldn’t let it happen."
Senate GOP breaks with Trump
Yet even as Democrats and the White House appear to be moving toward a consensus, Senate Republicans are breaking away entirely.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has been focused on hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has suggested that next week, when the full Senate is back in session, lawmakers will force a vote on a $500 billion bill that Democrats will likely shoot down. Republicans' previous attempt to pass a "skinny" package also failed.
Shortly after McConnell announced this "skinny" bill Tuesday, Trump tweeted "STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!"
Speaking in his home state on Thursday, McConnell rejected Trump's suggestion to go higher than — or even come anywhere close to — $1.8 trillion in stimulus spending.
"I don't think so. That's where the administration is willing to go," McConnell said, The Hill reported. "My members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go."
Asked about the pricier compromise that Mnuchin and Pelosi were still trying to hammer out, McConnell said, "that's not what I'm going to put on the floor."
The Senate's proposal is not expected to include money for stimulus check 2. Instead, it will focus on the Paycheck Protection Program to help businesses meet payroll, money for coronavirus testing and the liability protection for businesses.