Stimulus Deal Stalls As McConnell Balks At Bipartisan Bill

Hopes of a bipartisan stimulus deal faded on Tuesday after failing to resolve several remaining stumbling blocks on Monday – including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to endorse a $908 billion bipartisan proposal as a basis for talks.

McConnell has also insisted on applying broad federal limits on COVID-19 related lawsuits against businesses – for which Democrats are offering a six-month moratorium.

“Drop the all-or nothing tactics,” McConnell said of Democrats during a Monday Senate floor speech in which he called on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to allow a vote on a targeted bill which would provide extended unemployment insurance, along with small business assistance and funding for vaccine distribution.

Senators from both sides of the aisle concluded that the prospects for a $908 billion compromise that Republican and Democratic negotiators are hashing out will come down to McConnell’s decision. Several GOP members have endorsed or been open to the plan, and top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said President Donald Trump would likely sign it. McConnell is engaging the negotiators even though he hasn’t budged. –Fortune

In addition to gridlock over liability protection for businesses, Republicans and Democrats are butting heads over aid for states and localities – which has been House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s line in the sand for months.

“Those are coupled together,” said Texas Republican Senator, John Cornyn, referring to the liability protection and funding for states and municipalities. “There’s either going to be none for both of those, or both of those that are going to be provided for. My hope is we’ll do both.”

Republicans claim that state assistance is a scheme to bail out poorly-run Democratic areas, while Democrats have refused to shield employers from lawsuits for failing to protect employees who contract COVID-19.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are in even deeper gridlock on the omnibus spending bill – which includes disputes over further border wall funding, money for police anti-racism training (!?) and other measures.

Speaking about the Covid-19 relief proposal, McConnell said it’s getting “down to the wire.“

Schumer blamed his GOP counterpart for stalling the compromise effort. He and Pelosi publicly endorsed the $908 billion plan last Wednesday, after having made a new pitch to McConnell two days before. They previously sought a $2.4 trillion bill.

“We want the leader to sit down and negotiate so we can come up with a bipartisan proposal that can pass the House and the Senate,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. He highlighted that some economists are warning of a double-dip recession if Congress fails to pass a deal. –Fortune

On Tuesday, GOP leaders plan to discuss the situation with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. In particular, they will seek a separate COVID-19 relief initiative.

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