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In Reversal, McConnell Calls For New Economic Stimulus Before End of Year

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moves up timeline for passing new economic stimulus
  • Voices support for small business assistance and funds for schools and hospitals
  • Reversal follows uncertainty in Tuesday’s election over whether Democrats will gain control of Congress

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that the new economic stimulus will be the Senate’s top priority when the chamber reconvenes next week, backtracking from his recent contention that there would be no action on aid before the start of 2021.

McConnell said he hopes that the “partisan passions” present before Tuesday’s election will ease in the coming weeks, allowing Democrats and Republicans to come to a consensus on the matter. He said he supports funding for small business assistance, schools, and hospitals, but not a more sweeping proposal advanced by House Democrats.

The parties have been divided for months over the size and scope of new legislation to address the ongoing economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March with broad bipartisan support, Democrats have favored another major round of relief while Republicans have advocated for smaller measures.

Senate Republicans twice lined up behind $500 billion bills offering targeted relief similar to that proposed by McConnell, and both times the bills were blocked by Democrats. McConnell also reportedly advised President Donald Trump not to accept any negotiated deal between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin due to fears that it could compromise the Republican majority in the Senate and delay the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett.

There have also been some sticking points in negotiations, with Democrats largely opposed to liability protections for businesses and Republicans opposed to funds for state and local governments. McConnell said Wednesday that he would be willing to consider some state and local funding as part of the final legislation, as well as another round of $1,200 stimulus checks that were not included in the $500 billion proposals.

Democratic hopes to capture both chambers of Congress have dimmed as the results of Tuesday’s election come in, although McConnell acknowledged that he could still be in the minority when the new Congress convenes in January. Analysts have suggested that a Democratic sweep of both Congress and the White House may have resulted in a larger package being pushed through, but not until next year.

New stimulus is likely to follow the narrower approach, with Democrats pushing for more aid next year if they can capture the Senate. The bill is likely to focus on issues that have gained bipartisan support, such as renewed funding for the Paycheck Protection Program to assist small business, enhanced unemployment benefits, and support for schools and health care facilities.

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