Pelosi, Schumer Ask for Aid Talks as McConnell Sticks to Guns


Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to resume talks on a stimulus package, while McConnell stuck to his insistence on a targeted package.

“We write to request that you join us at the negotiating table this week so that we can work towards a bipartisan, bicameral Covid-19 relief agreement,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote. They said they were encouraged by McConnell’s comments after Election Day calling for stimulus and saying “it’s a possibility we will do more for state and local governments” -- one of the key areas of disagreement.

McConnell’s office, asked to respond to the call for talks, referred to the GOP leader’s comments from earlier on Tuesday, when he reiterated his support for a bill of about $500 billion.

The Democratic call for talks with McConnell followed the White House and President Donald Trump pulling back from their involvement after months of negotiations failed to yield a deal. The administration had offered to back a $1.9 trillion package before the Nov. 3 election.

Democrats have been demanding $2.4 trillion.

“Millions of unemployed Americans and those facing eviction and hunger demand action from their leaders. The time to act is upon us like never before,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote in their letter.

Senate Republicans in July had put forward a $1 trillion stimulus bill that included direct stimulus checks, only to pare that back as the economy began to bounce back from its historic contraction earlier in the year. They have been especially resistant to Democratic demands for more than $400 billion in aid to state and local governments with budget shortfalls due to lost revenue during the pandemic.

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday called on Congress to act on a stimulus bill this year, before he is inaugurated. But forecasters see that as unlikely, particularly while control of the Senate remains pending, with two runoff races in Georgia set for Jan. 5.

Read More: Here’s What Wall Street Sees for a U.S. Fiscal Stimulus Package

“I am open to a targeted bill roughly of the amount that we recommended, a half trillion dollars, which is not nothing,” McConnell said Tuesday. He also reiterated his call for liability protections from Covid-19 lawsuits, which Democrats have opposed.

Some virus-related relief could end up attached to a must-pass spending bill needed to keep the government open after Dec. 11.

House Democrats and Senate Republicans are negotiating behind closed doors this week on an outline for the 12-part $1.4 trillion appropriations bill, and report that progress is being made.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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