President Donald J. Trump is ready to go up to $1.8 trillion for the cost of a comprehensive coronavirus-relief stimulus package, further closing the gap with Democrats in negotiations for stimulus check 2, according to CNN (opens in new tab), The Hill (opens in new tab) and The Washington Post (opens in new tab).
That number is just $400 billion short of the Democrats' current $2.2 trillion proposal, encapsulated in the revised HEROES Act the House of Representatives passed last week along near-party lines. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has said she is not willing to go below $2 trillion.
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"I would like to see a bigger stimulus package, frankly, than either the Democrats or the Republicans are offering," Trump told radio host Rush Limbaugh during a call-in interview earlier today (Oct. 9), according to The Hill. "I'm going in the exact opposite now. OK?"
Just three days ago, Trump declared that the stimulus-bill negotiations were over, taking Pelosi by surprise. However, the president had reversed himself by midday yesterday (Oct. 8), and Pelosi never stopped negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the White House's point man for the talks.
"Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!" Trump tweeted Friday morning.
Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!October 9, 2020
Stimulus check 2 almost guaranteed to be part of deal
One big new concession will be a White House offer for $300 billion for cash-strapped state and local governments, up from $250 billion in the previous proposal, The Hill reports.
The Democrats are currently asking for $436 billion for the state and local governments, but that's half of what they wanted in the original $3.4 trillion HEROES Act passed by the House in May.
All of the comprehensive plans so far, including both HEROES Acts, the Senate Republican leadership's $1.1 trillion HEALS Act, and the $1.5 trillion bipartisan Problem Solvers bill put together by House moderates in mid-September, include another round of stimulus checks to all qualifying taxpayers at or close to the original $1,200 level.
Both sides also broadly agree on the need for more aid to the struggling airline industry and to small businesses. It's almost everything else that Democrats and Republicans disagree on.
"The devil and the angels are in the details," Pelosi said on MSNBC earlier today, according to The Hill. "Part of it is about money, and part of it is about policy."
The Senate could still squash a deal
However, any deal the White House reaches with Pelosi will have to go through the Senate, where the Republican majority contains many members opposed to spending more than $1 trillion, or even any additional stimulus spending at all.
It's not clear whether President Trump could sway enough reluctant Republicans for the bill to clear the Senate's 60-vote hurdle, or whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) would be willing to advance a bill that would get more Democratic than Republican votes.
One unnamed Republican insider said to be close to McConnell told The Washington Post that there would be "maybe 10" GOP senators who would support a $2 trillion stimulus package.
There's also the election coming up. Lawmakers from both chambers are out on the campaign trail. The Senate does not even reconvene until Oct. 19, and its first order of business will be to confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
"You've got to remember there are a lot of senators on the Republican side of the aisle who are not in cycle," i.e. facing re-election in 2020, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told The Post. "One of the most damaging votes they could take is to spend another couple trillion dollars spent in a relief bill."
Speaking at an event in his home state of Kentucky today, McConnell blamed the stimulus-bill zig-zagging on "everybody kind of trying to elbow for political advantage," according to Politico (opens in new tab).
"I'd like to see us rise above that like we did back in March and April," he added, "but I think that's unlikely in the next three weeks."