Stimulus Negotiations Deadlocked As Democrats Refuse To Budge Despite Needing Republicans

( The prospects for another economic stimulus package in 2020 have looked grim for a while now. But they seemed to reach a new low this week.

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said they don’t have any plans to budge from their demand of a coronavirus relief package that totals $2 trillion at the very least.

Within the hour of the pair releasing their thoughts on the matter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly rejected the Democratic leaders’ approach.

McConnell reiterated that he believes a stimulus package around $500 billion would be best suited for the country at this point, though Senate Democrats have blocked efforts to progress bills in that range recently. The majority leader pointed to the improving economy as the reason why the Senate should instead create something that is “highly targeted at what the residual problems are.”

McConnell continued:

“I gather [Pelosi] and the Democratic leader in the Senate still are looking at something dramatically larger. That’s not a place I think we’re willing to go. But I do think there needs to be another package. Hopefully, we can get past the impasse we’ve had now for four or five months and get serious.”

Even though the two Democratic leaders in Congress will now have a member of their own party in the White House come January, when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated, that won’t automatically allow them to pass through whatever legislation they want. It won’t even give them extra leverage, as Senate Republicans can just block whatever bill they want — or McConnell can refuse to bring the bill to the floor.

As long as Republicans win one of the two seats up for grabs in Georgia’s two January runoff elections, they’ll retain control of the Senate.

Biden, Schumer and Pelosi had a call on Thursday where they discussed pandemic economic relief. According to a joint statement they released following the call, they “discussed the urgent need for the Congress to come together in the lame duck session.”

One of their top priorities is sending aid to local and state governments, expanded unemployment insurance as well as extra resources to fight the pandemic. The first two items on that list have been a point of contention among Senate Republicans to this point, though.

Over the last few months, Pelosi and Schumer have been negotiating directly with the Trump administration and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But with him serving in a lame-duck role and about to leave his post come January, the person with the most power to make a deal is McConnell.

That hasn’t stopped Democrats from trying to pull a power move, even though they don’t hold all the cards. It’s what’s been particularly frustrating to other senators, including Susan Collins from Maine. She said recently that she believed Senate Democrats should advance a bill from the Senate that would then force a compromise with members of the house.

“Then we could go to conference, as we would have in the good old days, and work out the differences between the House and Senate bills,” she said. “And that return to normal order, to me, is the easiest route, the quickest route, to getting an agreement.”