Kentucky Politics

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he will hold another vote on a slimmed-down coronavirus relief package before the election, but that he’s not willing to consider a larger deal despite President Trump’s willingness to do so.

McConnell has been unable to get support for his $500 billion coronavirus bill in the Senate, where Republicans have a slim 53-47 majority over Democrats. Bills generally require 60 votes to pass the Senate.

Meanwhile Trump has proposed a $1.8 trillion package, and has urged Republican lawmakers to “go big or go home” on a new bill.

In Princeton, Kentucky on Thursday, McConnell said Republican senators want to stick to the smaller plan.

“He is willing to go higher than my members are. We’ve spent a lot of time on this,” McConnell said.

“I think you could get 52 of my 53 members to vote for the package I just described. I can’t think of a good reason not to pass what we can agree to and if there’s remaining desire to do something later, take a look at it.”

McConnell and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have gone back and forth over what to include in a new package since late May, when the House passed a $3 trillion bill that would have boosted pay for frontline workers, extended the supplement for unemployment benefits, authorized another round of $1,200 stimulus checks and provided budget assistance to struggling state and local governments.

McConnell’s $500 billion plan would provide liability protections for businesses reopening during the pandemic, another round of loans for businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program and money for schools reopening to in-person classes.

McConnell said the Senate will vote on the package again on Monday. The Senate took up the bill last month, but McConnell didn’t have enough votes to overcome a filibuster.

During the stop in Princeton, McConnell said he’d be willing to consider another round of stimulus checks for hospitality workers hit hard by the pandemic, but that state and local governments need to rely on what they already got through relief packages passed earlier this year.

“We’re not very keen on state and local government, we’ve already sent them $150 billion,” McConnell said. “Many states are doing just fine. There are a few that aren’t. And we don’t have any enthusiasm for that.”

The difference between McConnell’s and Trump’s approach to coronavirus relief comes as Republicans are worried about losing their majority in the Senate and Trump is behind by double digits in national polls.

Trump has criticized his own Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for failing to reach a deal with congressional Democrats, saying on Fox Business that Mnuchin “hasn’t come home with the bacon.”

McConnell is running for his seventh term in the U.S. Senate this year. His Democratic opponent, Amy McGrath, has criticized him for being reticent on passing another coronavirus package.

During a debate on Monday, McGrath called McConnell’s approach to the pandemic a “dereliction of duty.”

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.