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Friday’s End Sinks Hopes of a Timely Coronavirus Stimulus

— August 7, 2020

Republican leaders refused to approve $1 trillion in aid for state and local governments, causing the negotiations to fall flat.

Friday is nearing its end, and it appears that Democrats and Republicans will be unable to pass another coronavirus stimulus package before Congress departs for its summer recess.

According to the BBC, congressional leaders and White House negotiators remained locked in a stalemate throughout the latter half of the week. Despite a modicum of common ground and a bit of compromise—Republicans, for instance, were willing to permit a continuation of enhanced unemployment benefits through December—it appears any hopes for a last-minute deal have fallen flat. Insiders say that there is simply too much disagreement over what should and should not be in a final stimulus package.

Top-ranking Democrats, like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have insisted not only on another round of stimulus checks and an extension of $600 per week unemployment benefits, but close to $1 trillion in financial assistance for states and local governments. That money would be used to prevent the furlough of government employees, along with more coronavirus testing and project funding.

The Democratic package is estimated to cost about $2 trillion—about 40% less than the House-passed HEROES Act, which came with a staggering $3.4 trillion price tag.

A greying, older man in a dark suit, at a podium, with his hands raised.
Mitch McConnell. Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Pelosi has since framed Democrats’ more recent proposals as a concession—an offer to meet Republicans, who have been hoping for a $1 trillion package, in the middle.

“We’ll go down $1 trillion, you go up $1 trillion,” she said Friday. “We have a moral responsibility to find common ground.”

Nevertheless, conservative negotiators were reluctant to approve a $2 trillion package. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who has advocated both for another round of stimulus checks and a continuation of enhanced unemployment, called Pelosi’s proposal a “non-stater.”

But Republicans have their own wish list, too. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is insistent on liability protections for businesses across the United States. McConnell has repeatedly said that no deal can be made without a liability shield, which would protect companies—large and small alike—from most coronavirus-related litigation.

McConnell had previously set today—Friday, August 7th—as a deadline for compromise. He also pledged to hold off the Senate’s planned summer recess if there was any chance of a deal.

While it now seems no deal will be made, both the Senate and House have been advised to ready for a potential return to Washington, D.C., to vote on a stimulus package next week if negotiations do manage to succeed.

Of course, it is unlikely that any compromise will be made with lawmakers out of the capital.

In the meantime, President Donald Trump has pledged to prepare and sign a set of executive orders to provide limited relief to Americans. However, Trump—as chief executive—likely lacks the authority to reapportion vast sums of money, a responsibility which is constitutionally the domain of Congress.


Congress’ last-ditch talks on virus stimulus fail

Mnuchin rejects $2T coronavirus stimulus offer from Democrats: ‘That’s a non-starter’

What Nancy Pelosi wants in the next stimulus package

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