McConnell brushes off Pelosi as she finalizes relief package
House Democrats are “moving really fast and big and bold. And Leader McConnell hasn’t done anything,” Schumer said Monday. “The American people will be very much behind the kind of big, bold solution that the House is proposing.”
The last $484 billion bill, the fourth in a series of massive aid packages totaling nearly $3 trillion, was driven by the depletion of funds for the Paycheck Protection Program in April. But demand for that program has slowed, and its popularity has waned among lawmakers in both parties because of reports of money going to big companies and universities with large endowments.
So even if the new $310 billion in funding for the Paycheck Protection Program is expended in the coming weeks, there’s no guarantee it will force Republicans to the table.
Still, if the House is able to pass legislation in the next week it will amount to a challenge to a Senate GOP that’s considering leaving for a weeklong recess for Memorial Day during the last week of May. And some Republicans said the party is feeling more urgency than it was just a few weeks ago.
“It’s hard for people to wrap their heads around it,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who is advocating for federally subsidizing workers’ salaries to prevent layoffs. “I’m hearing a lot more of my colleagues say: ‘What are we going to do about jobs? ‘I think people are getting there.”
After Republicans openly dismissed Pelosi’s plan for a fifth bill, the speaker made no effort to negotiate with the GOP at the outset. Instead, Pelosi has been working to cull down a lengthy list of Democratic wants into what’s expected to be a partisan proposal that receives little, if any, Republican support.
And even that has proved difficult — the initial timeline for finishing the House bill has slipped since last week as rank-and-file Democrats lobby leadership to include their ideas. As a result, the draft bill has ballooned, with some Democrats whispering it could cost close to $3 trillion when finished.
“At this point there’s still negotiations just within the Democratic Party on what should be in this bill. Last week we were posed with the question: Should we go big?” Rep. Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) said in an interview. “The general consensus was ‘go big’ and put in what we believe in and then the pressure is on Republicans to explain why they’re not supporting [our proposals].”
The measure is expected to include more than $1 trillion in aid for state and local governments, in addition to expanding food assistance and money for mail-in voting, among other things.
Democratic aides insist they’re working to pare back the costs before releasing the final proposal, saying that it will likely cost somewhere around $2 trillion, an eye popping figure that is sure to be mocked by Republicans.
On a private caucus call Monday, Pelosi said it’s up to Democrats to “build our environment” through public sentiment to give their bill momentum.
“The sooner we act, the bigger we go, the better,” Pelosi told Democrats.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing this week on liability reform, the GOP’s main demand for the next piece of legislation. But otherwise, the party has not yet coalesced around a large vision.