WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — With no coronavirus relief deal happening ahead of the November 3 election, both Republican and Democratic leaders are eyeing the next couple of months as the ideal time to strike a deal and get another round of direct payments to most Americans.
They have similar timelines for very different reasons.
On Thursday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’s confident Democrat Joe Biden will win the election, and she wants to reach an agreement before he potentially takes office. Pelosi says the new president would have enough on his plate over his first 100 days.
“We want to have the cleanest slate as possible going into January,” Pelosi said, according to Politico’s Sarah Ferris.
President Trump is confident a deal is on the way — after he wins.
“After the election, we will get the best stimulus package you have ever seen,” Trump said on Tuesday.
While Trump said the White House will continue to negotiate with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he’s been accusing her of going after “bailouts” for cities and states run by Democrats. Trump predicted her inaction on stimulus could lead to Republicans taking over the U.S. House.
“I think we are going to take back the House because of her,” he added.
Pelosi recently labeled Trump “delusional” for making the same prediction last week. As of now, the Cook Political Report predicts Democrats will pick up seats — not lose them.
At issue is a huge virus relief bill that would send another $1,200 direct payment to most Americans, restart bonus unemployment benefits, fund additional testing and vaccines, provide aid to schools and allocate money to state and local governments, a Democratic priority.
Pelosi says she wants a relief bill that is predicated on steps that science dictates should be taken to deal with the coronavirus, and “if we don’t, we’re just giving money to the president to spend any way he wants and that has not been in furtherance of crushing the virus.”
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said over the weekend the administration made many offers, but Pelosi “continues to move the goalposts.”
Meadows noted the relief bill being negotiated would cost about $1.9 trillion. Pelosi is hoping for a $2.2 trillion package. Meadows says he has a commitment from McConnell to bring a bill to the floor if negotiations with Pelosi conclude successfully.
A $1.8 trillion rescue plan in March passed virtually unanimously. The Pelosi-pushed package today is even larger but has run into resolute opposition from Republicans. Taking care of the issue would clear the decks for a fresh start on the congressional agenda next year.
Senate Democrats blocked a Senate GOP plan that McConnell brought to a vote earlier this month. The measure contained more than $100 billion for schools, a $300 per week supplemental unemployment insurance benefit, and more subsidies for businesses especially hard hit by pandemic-related downturns and closures. It did not include the $1,200 direct payments that are so important to Trump.
Trump says that if he wins reelection, aid will flow immediately. If he loses, it’s unclear whether his enthusiasm for delivering it will be as strong.
“I’m never very optimistic about the lame duck and I’ve never been surprised,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. “You don’t get near as much done as you think you’re going to get done.”
Those Republicans willing to speculate about a Trump loss say not to expect much, either.
“I think Democrats would want to wait until the new president is sworn in and do it then and I think Republicans probably would say … the economy’s taking care of it,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.