Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday said his top priority remains passing a new economic stimulus bill before the end of the year.
McConnell, who Tuesday evening won his re-election bid, said from a news conference in Kentucky that another relief package would be the chamber’s chief focus when it reconvenes next week.
He also said that state and local aid, a consistent Democratic demand in relief discussions with the White House, could be included in a new bill.
“As I’ve said repeatedly in the last few months, we need another rescue package,” McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday. “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.”
“I think that’s job one when we get back,” McConnell said. “Hopefully we get a more cooperative situation than we’ve had.”
Although Republicans appeared set to retain their majority in the Senate as of Wednesday afternoon, McConnell struck a cautious outlook and cited tight contests in key battleground states.
Democrats did win the Senate race in Colorado, and are leading in Arizona, but could fall short of becoming the majority. NBC News projects Democrats will keep control of the House of Representatives.
McConnell’s comments could rekindle relief talks between the two parties after months of stalled negotiations between Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and White House officials including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The mired talks come even as the U.S. recorded another 91,500 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, the second-highest single-day tally to date, according to Johns Hopkins data. The disease has now killed more than 230,000 Americans.
Up until the weeks immediately preceding the election, McConnell had warned that a potential $2 trillion package negotiated between Mnuchin and Pelosi may lack sufficient support in the Senate out of fears it could be too expensive.
“The Speaker laid out a $2.5 trillion package with all kinds of things that I felt were simply unrelated to the subject,” the majority leader said Wednesday. “I laid on the Senate floor not once, but twice, half a trillion dollars ... targeting the school situation, the need to replenish PPP small loan program.”
McConnell tried early in 2020 to advance his own, far-smaller bill that lacked fiscal support for state and local governments as well as omitting another round of $1,200 direct payment checks to most Americans.
That effort was blocked by Senate Democrats — who argued that it lacked enough relief — and by some Republicans who said even the watered-down bill was too costly. Congress has not enacted any new major stimulus since the spring, when lawmakers muscled through four bipartisan bills worth about $3 trillion.
“Ultimately, you’ve got to kill the [virus] before we get back to normal. Because there’s no other way to get back to normal. You can keep keep pumping money into the economy forever and it won’t solve the problem until we kill the virus,” McConnell said.
“Having said that, there are other sectors that need help and I outlined what I think is appropriate, but I don’t get to make the final decision. We have to deal with the Democrats,” he added. “And what I’m saying is, I think now that the election’s over, the need is there and we need to sit down and work this out.”