Negotiations continue between the White House and congressional leaders over the next emergency relief package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with disagreements persisting over the price tag of the measure.
Earlier in October, the House passed a $2.2 trillion package - a pared-down version of the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act that the chamber passed in May. The revised proposal includes nearly $3 billion in emergency funding for the National Science Foundation as well as $11.9 billion for higher education institutions. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has expressed unwillingness to go below $2.2 trillion. The White House was initially willing to go up to $1.6 trillion, but later proposed a slightly larger $1.8 trillion relief measure with additional funding for state and local governments and direct stimulus checks. There is some Republican support for the White House proposal, but many GOP Senators criticized the spending as too high.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) forced a vote on a $500 billion relief measure, which included $100 billion for school safety, an extension of expanded employment benefits, funds for testing and tracing, and funding for vaccine development and distribution. The bill also included liability protections for businesses - a provision that Democrats called a “poison pill.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the bill was “not a serious attempt at pandemic relief” and just “another attempt at giving Republicans political cover before the election.” The bill failed to pass in the Senate. McConnell conceded this was a messaging exercise. “We wanted to make the point to the American people that Senate Republicans believe another package is important,” he stated.
It appears unlikely that a stimulus deal will be reached before the elections. According to E&E News, Senator McConnell has been discouraging the White House from finalizing an agreement with the Democrats prior to Election Day.