Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has now indicated that he is currently unwilling to move forward with a level of Coronavirus-connected economic relief that has been proposed by the White House. The Trump administration has been angling for a new relief package that’s worth between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion, but on Thursday, McConnell indicated to reporters that he was not moving forward on that level of spending at present. Instead, the Senate is slated to soon vote on a relief package that’s well under half that level, totaling about $500 billion.
Asked about the White House’s target, McConnell said:
‘That’s where the administration is willing to go. My members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go.’
McConnell added that the higher spending level is “not what [he is] going to put on the floor.” The plan that he is planning to bring up for a vote — months after the Democrat-led House passed their own new relief package — includes money for more forgivable small business loans, financial support for Coronavirus testing and hospitals, and a shield for businesses against potential future lawsuits related to topics like Coronavirus exposure or virus/ infection management practices. As the country continues to struggle through recovering from the pandemic, these liability protections, if enacted, could be a major stumbling block on the road to securing relief for everyday Americans.
McConnell’s perspective stands in stark contrast to the president’s own recent comments. Asked during a Thursday Fox interview if he was willing to go higher than $1.8 trillion, Trump insisted:
‘Absolutely, I would. I would pay more. I would go higher. Go big or go home, I said it yesterday. Go big or go home.’
The irony of Trump suddenly becoming a champion of pricey relief is that just recently, Trump announced that he had ordered the end of negotiations between the White House and Congressional Democrats over a potential new comprehensive Coronavirus relief package. He quickly followed that announcement up with an apparent backtrack, announcing that he actually supported specific relief measures like financial support for airlines and direct payments to Americans, the latter of which were included in the most recent successful economic relief package, which was known as the CARES Act.
Negotiations over a potential new economic relief package have been going on for months, with little recent major progress.
Since May, an estimated 8 million people across the U.S. have “slipped into poverty,” according to data shared by The New York Times. According to a Columbia University study cited by the publication, that growth in poverty follows a temporary reduction of about 4 million in the number of impoverished Americans during the beginning of the pandemic, when the federal financial support poured in. Those Columbia University numbers mean that since the start of the pandemic, there’s been an approximate net growth in the number of impoverished Americans by about 4 million. Numbers are fluid, especially as the economy continues to slowly come back together, but the ongoing national crisis is staggering. Nevertheless, Congressional Republicans continue to drag their feet.