Few politicians on Capitol Hill expect another coronavirus aid package to be passed in the next few months during the lame session of Congress.
Negotiations on more economic aid have repeatedly stalled in the months leading up to the election between the Democrats and the Trump administration. Many legislators blamed the failure to reach an agreement on hyper-party tensions that flared up before a major – and extremely polarizing – presidential contest.
But as the dust continues to settle a week after election day and Joe Biden prepares for his transition to the White House, few supporters and legislators on either side of the aisle have shown confidence that there will be more relief in the final days of President Donald Trump’s term.
“It seems to me that the catch that has held us back for months is still there,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Tuesday. “I don’t think the current situation calls for a multi-billion dollar package. I think it should be very targeted, much like what I put on the table in October and September”.
The stalemate between Republicans and Democrats on the overall price issue has not magically resolved simply because Congress is no longer in campaign mode. The Democrats will continue to reject McConnell’s “targeted” approach – or “in other words, insufficient relief,” as Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer put it. The Democrats continue to push for something closer to the $2.2 trillion bill passed by the House of Representatives Democrats last month.
And since Trump lost the election, the Democrats fear that he has even less political reason to reach an agreement before he leaves office on January 20.
“What will Trump even sign at that time,” a Democratic source, who asked for anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, told Washington Newsday. “With an unreliable Trump, Congress would need a veto-proof majority…. Why are we expected to be the ones to give in? I am convinced that the GOP would never make a bill.”
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, originally signaled last month that he wouldn’t support another stimulus package until next year, but he went back days later and said to come before the end of the year. Last month, Democrats in the Senate again rejected a $500 billion Republican-led proposal.
The attempt to reach a bipartisan deal with the new Congress and a Biden administration will likely face the same kind of blockade. While two runoff elections in the Senate in Georgia on January 5 will decide which party will control the upper budget, it is likely that the Republicans will retain their majority. The Democrats would have to turn over both seats for a tie-breaker Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris voting as the tiebreaker.
“Both sides say they want the [incentive]they want. We’ll see,” said Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the GOP leadership. “I may be a little better than I thought I would be before the election. But I still think the lame duck is tough.”
One solution could be to include some form of incentives in the annual budget that Congress must pass by December 11 and the President must sign to avoid a government shutdown.
“Might not be a bad idea if we can agree on the standards,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). “I think it depends on what the Democrats want to do. If they don’t cooperate, they won’t do it. But if they want to get this out of the way, [Nancy] Pelosi told me she wants to get it out of the way and move on to the next Congress. We are ready and willing”.
But that could be risky, to say the least. It would require putting the entire funding of the federal government at risk while negotiators try to reach an agreement that they have failed to reach for months.
House spokeswoman Pelosi has been steadfast in her support for a comprehensive measure, despite recent strong third-quarter employment figures and an increase in GDP. Add to this the new Biden government, which will find a major relief bill far more welcome.
“No, no, I don’t like that at all,” sa