McConnell opens door for lame-duck deal on emergency spending

Source: By Tory Newmyer, Washington Post • Posted: Thursday, November 5, 2020

The election looks likely to deliver more gridlock if it sends Joe Biden to the White House and preserves Republican control of the Senate. But it may have opened a window in the meantime for an elusive deal on an economic relief package.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — who hugged the bench this fall rather than engage in negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — breathed some new hope into the process Wednesday.

“We need another rescue package,” McConnell said in a news conference in Kentucky, a day after securing his seventh term. “The Senate goes back into session next Monday. Hopefully the partisan passions that prevented us from doing another rescue package will subside with the election. And I think we need to do it and I think we need to do it before the end of the year.”

The Kentucky Republican signaled a willingness to deal, indicating he could accede to Democratic demands for new aid to state and local governments — a red line for some in his ranks. He called it a “possibility,” Erica Werner reports.

But key details remain unknown.

Mnuchin and Pelosi in the run-up to the election had been circling an agreement for a roughly $2 trillion package. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) last month said a measure with a price tag in that range couldn’t earn 13 Senate Republican votes, the minimum to break a filibuster if it gathered unanimous support from Democrats. And McConnell failed twice to advance a $500 billion version because Democrats opposed it as too small.

Rohit Kumar, a former top McConnell aide now a principal at PwC, says Senate Republicans may see new leverage to demand Democrats agree to come down to a roughly $1 trillion bill after outpacing election expectations. “I think the gravity here shifts a little bit,” Kumar says. “There’s a psychological element to this that can’t be denied: The deal ends up landing closer to the side that’s feeling jubilant.”

There is no indication Pelosi will agree. The speaker and Mnuchin cut off their talks last week on a frosty note, Erica reported. Addressing reporters last Thursday, she wrote, ”Pelosi expressed optimism” that Biden would win “and suggested she wanted to clear the decks for him. But Pelosi also said she would not accept a small bill with the idea of coming back for more once a Biden administration begins.”