Chance of a Fresh Economic Relief Bill Is Revived

Source: By Jim Tankersley and Alan Rappeport, New York Times • Posted: Thursday, November 5, 2020

The possibility of a stimulus deal before the end of the year is rising on Capitol Hill, but it is unlikely to result in as large a package as Democrats and President Trump discussed before the election.
Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The slow resolution of the presidential election, and the growing chance that Democrats and Republicans will divide power in Washington next year, has revived the possibility that lawmakers could reach agreement on a new economic rescue package before Christmas.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on Wednesday that reaching a deal on a stimulus bill would be “Job 1” when lawmakers return for the lame-duck congressional session following the elections. It is possible that such a deal could be attached to a bill that would fund the federal government past Dec. 11 — legislation that will be necessary to avoid a government shutdown.

The chance of a stimulus deal may be rising, but it is unlikely to result in as large a package as Democrats and President Trump were discussing before the election.

Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, had been discussing a potential package with the White House that would have been just shy of $2 trillion and include direct payments to low- and middle-income individuals and families, loans for small businesses and money for schools, state and local governments and expanded coronavirus testing. Senate Republicans were pushing a bill that would have cost well under $1 trillion, possibly as little as $500 billion.

Business groups are mounting a renewed push for a large package — possibly around $1.7 trillion. “There’s no reason to wait,” Neil Bradley, the executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday.

Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, said this week that he expected the White House and Congress to agree on another short-term extension of government funding in mid-December but that it was unclear if additional stimulus money would be attached to that legislation. He reiterated that the White House would like to see additional money allocated to the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and a reinstatement of supplemental benefits for the unemployed.

The mind-set of the White House is difficult to predict and cooperation on stimulus from Mr. Trump could hinge on his fading re-election prospects. Trump administration officials believe that Ms. Pelosi overplayed her hand in stimulus negotiations during the summer and fall and that Republicans will be even less likely to go along with a $2 trillion package now that the election is over and the Senate appears less likely to shift to Democratic control.