White House Leaves Stimulus to Congress after Months of Impasse
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is stepping back from negotiations on a new stimulus package and leaving it up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to revive long-stalled talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to people familiar with the situation.
While the White House probably would consult with GOP lawmakers on details of a COVID-19 relief bill, it’s now unlikely to take the lead on talks, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The White House would only take over if negotiations have to be restarted completely, the people said.
The White House didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
The move greatly diminishes the chances of a trillion dollar stimulus for the U.S. economy before January. President Donald Trump had committed to pursuing a large-scale stimulus after the election, even saying he would approve a $2 trillion bill, but has since focused on attempting to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victories in battleground states.
That leaves the negotiations at a stalemate, with neither McConnell nor Pelosi backing away from earlier positions, even as the further spread of the coronavirus threatens to weaken the recovery from earlier pandemic-induced shutdowns.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said earlier this month that more fiscal stimulus is “absolutely essential” to U.S. economic recovery.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been leading negotiations with Pelosi, but they hit an impasse before Election Day, with the administration proposing about $1.9 trillion in spending, and Democrats at $2.4 trillion. A welter of policy issues, from aid to state and local governments to a Republican push for liability protections for businesses, had also prevented a deal.
McConnell has continued to insist on a much smaller package of about $500 billion, and recently cited the drop in the unemployment rate and progress on a COVID-19 vaccine as reasons to stick to that position.
He told reporters Thursday that more stimulus is needed, but only a targeted package like the one he proposed previously. As for the Democrats’ proposal for a much larger plan, he said, “That’s not a place I think we’re willing to go.”
His office declined to comment about the White House role in the talks.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday that the $2.4 trillion House-passed bill must be the starting point to any new stimulus talks, reinforcing the stalemate with the Senate.
“We’re at the same place,” Pelosi said at a news conference with Schumer. “Even more so with the pandemic because look at these numbers. Look at these numbers. Look at the predictions of the scientific community.”
Pelosi didn’t respond to a question about whether she had spoken to anyone from the administration.
(c)2020 Bloomberg News
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