McConnell says coronavirus relief package 'unlikely' before election

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested Friday that Congress is “unlikely” to reach an agreement on a coronavirus rescue package before the Nov. 3 election, amid confusion and weeks of stalled negotiations.

During remarks at an event in Kentucky, McConnell reiterated that the upcoming election will only make it more difficult for Democrats, Republicans and the White House to find common ground on a package, even as millions of Americans remain unemployed and more than 210,000 people have died from the coronavirus.

“The situation is kind of murky and I think the murkiness is a result of the proximity to the election and everybody kind of trying to elbow for political advantage,” McConnell said. “I’d like to see us rise above that like we did back in March and April but I think that’s unlikely in the next three weeks.”

McConnell’s remarks come after President Donald Trump has sent mixed signals about whether he wants Congress to pass a coronavirus relief package. Earlier this week, Trump tweeted that he told key negotiators for the White House that he wanted to wait until after the election to come to a deal. But hours later, Trump called on Congress to pass standalone bills for a range of issues, including airline relief and stimulus checks.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke Wednesday, but Pelosi rejected providing aid to the beleaguered airline industry, which is facing massive layoffs, outside of a larger bill.

Pelosi told reporters Friday that she plans to continue negotiating with Mnuchin and planned to speak with him later in the day. The speaker and Mnuchin have spoken by phone almost daily over the last two weeks as they’ve pushed for a longshot deal on a stimulus package.

For months, Congress has struggled to come to an agreement on providing additional coronavirus relief. Among the biggest sticking points remains the price tag for a coronavirus relief package. House Democrats earlier this month passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, but Senate Republicans have expressed concern about the deficit and most are unlikely to support a proposal that far exceeds $1 trillion.

Senate Republicans introduced a more narrow, coronavirus relief bill in September, which received near unanimous support from the GOP caucus, but was blocked by Senate Democrats.

McConnell said Friday that “we do need another rescue package” but added that the “differences of opinion about what is needed at this particular juncture are pretty bad.”

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