Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks at a campaign rally on October 28, 2020 in Florence, Kentucky.
Bryan Woolston | Reuters
Washington's top policymakers on Friday sent mixed signals about how quickly Congress could adopt new coronavirus stimulus after the 2020 elections.
Progress toward an aid deal has stalled in the past few weeks as Republicans and Democrats differed on how much money they need to spend on efforts to slow the re-infection in the US and kickstart a sluggish economy. Despite the impasse, the negotiators have admitted that at some point they will have to send some form of help.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who have not reached agreement on much related to the virus response in the past few months, were again at odds on Friday when asked when the stimuli will wipe could. The Kentucky Republican told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he expected to deal with relief "early in the year". The legislation "is particularly aimed at small businesses struggling and hospitals now dealing with a second wave of the coronavirus".
Pelosi said she expected Congress "will certainly have (done) something by the start of the new presidency." But the California Democrat told MSNBC, "We don't want to have to wait so long because people have needs." The presidential winner will be unveiled on January 20, and the spokeswoman said she believed Democrat Joe Biden will take the oath of office on that day.
At the same time, President Donald Trump was pushing for incentives to be passed on even faster than the top Republican and Senate Democrat. Speaking to reporters on Friday, the president said: "We will have a huge stimulus package immediately after the election."
The mixed messages follow a day of tense correspondence between Pelosi and the Trump administration as the sides struggle to negotiate a month-long stimulus impasse. How they can get a bipartisan deal that can pass through the Republican-held Senate and Democratically controlled House remains unclear.
While Pelosi is widely expected to lead a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives next year, both the Senate and White House could switch hands after Tuesday's elections.
Congress has failed to approve new aid for months, despite an ongoing economic crisis that has left millions of people unemployed and struggled to pay their bills. New Covid-19 cases hit another US record – 88,521 – on Thursday, putting new restrictions in place to limit the spread.
Despite an economic boom in the third quarter, with GDP growing 33.1% annually, economic growth at the end of 2019 is still 3.5% below its level before the virus hit the U.S.
The once cordial relationship between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin seemed to grow bitter this week. On Thursday, the Democrat sent the Treasury Secretary a letter saying the White House had failed to provide its expected responses on a number of ongoing aid issues.
These include state and local state aid, a national testing strategy, unemployment insurance, corporate liability protection, and tax credits for families.
Mnuchin, in turn, accused Pelosi of doing a "political stunt" after long struggles to find common ground and offer "reasonable compromise positions" on the issues she mentioned.
Pelosi downplayed any personal tension between her and Mnuchin on Friday.
"It doesn't matter what our relationship is, it matters what the truth is. And the truth is that this government has failed miserably to respond to this virus," she told MSNBC.
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