WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday rejected a coronavirus relief deal that costs more than $1.8 trillion, hours after President Trump indicated he was "absolutely" willing to raise his spending offer.
Asked during an appearance in Henderson, Ky., whether there can be a compromise between the White House-backed $1.8 trillion proposal and a $2.2 trillion offer put forward by House Democrats earlier this month, McConnell pushed back.
“I don’t think so," he said. "That’s where the administration's willing to go. My members think what we laid out, a half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go."
"What I’m going to put in the floor is what Senate Republicans, 52 out 53 of us, feel like it’s an appropriate response," he said. "You are correct there were discussions going on between the secretary of the Treasury and the speaker about the higher amount. That’s not what I’m gonna put on the floor.”
McConnell's comments came shortly after Trump told FOX Business he was considering upping his offer for a coronavirus relief package above the White House's current $1.8 trillion proposal.
"I would," he told Stuart Varney. "Absolutely, I would. I would say more. I would go higher. Go big or go home, I said it yesterday."
“Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to give anything. She thinks it helps her with the election,” the president continued. “And I don’t think so. I think it hurts her with the election because everyone knows she’s holding it up. We’re not holding it up. She’s holding it up.”
The Trump administration's latest proposal -- its largest yet -- drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats last week, dimming the odds of another round of emergency aid before the Nov. 3 election. It was expected to include a second round of direct payments of up to $1,200 for adults and $1,000 for children; expanded unemployment benefits at $400 per week and additional funding for state and local governments.
In a weekly letter to Democratic colleagues, House Speaker Pelosi said the administration’s proposal lacked a “strategic plan to crush the virus” and gave Trump too much power in determining how the funds were spent.
"This proposal amounted to one step forward, two steps back," Pelosi said in the letter. She later identified a lack of funding for testing as one of the main sticking points in negotiations.
At the same time, several Senate Republicans warned there was "no appetite" for a massive spending bill before the November election.
Any bill still needs to get through the Democratic-controlled House and the GOP-controlled Senate, where some Republicans have expressed concern about another massive spending initiative amid the nation's ballooning deficit, which is projected to hit a record-shattering $3.3 trillion this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
McConnell is instead planning a vote on a "targeted" coronavirus relief bill next week, including another round of funding for a key small business rescue program, money for schools, liability protections for businesses and boosted unemployment benefits.
The Republican leader said Congress would have enough time to pass the bill and confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court unless "Democrats block this aid for workers." Democrats previously rejected a $500 billion "skinny" proposal put forward by Republicans over the summer, and have pushed back against "piecemeal" legislation.
McConnell has said he expects Democrats to block the legislation, although Democrats have not explicitly committed to doing so.
"That's a lot of money ... to target the actual needs the country has. I'm not anticipating they’re going to support it but I'm going to give them the opportunity," McConnell told Politico.