Mitch McConnell won’t tolerate any “wish lists” from Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) when it comes to the next coronavirus bill.
The Republican leader fired a warning shot on Monday against “tangential, left-wing daydreams,” as negotiations heat up over the next package of financial relief, the Washington Examiner reported. However, McConnell has appeared to give some ground on funding for state and local governments, a priority for Democrats.
McConnell rejects Pelosi’s “wish lists”
Previous cycles of debate over coronavirus relief bills were marked by bickering, with Republicans accusing Democrats of holding up desperately needed financial relief with irrelevant, ideological demands. As Congress looks ahead to hammering out the next bill, the battle lines are already being drawn.
In a statement Monday, the Republican warned — without specifically naming Pelosi — that the next bill must not contain ‘distractions’ or “wish lists” that have nothing to do with the coronavirus itself. The Republican alluded to Democrats’ previous — and apparently future — efforts to expand coronavirus bills with left-wing policy items. The most recent bill passed by Congress, a nearly $500 billion package to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, started as a request for just $250 billion from McConnell, the Associated Press reported.
“We cannot get distracted by preexisting partisan wish lists or calls to paper over decades of reckless decisions that had nothing to do with COVID-19,” McConnell said.
McConnell’s warning seemed to draw a line on the issue of funding for state and local governments, which Democrats have promised to include in the next bill. The funding wasn’t in the most recent package, and McConnell has faced a firestorm of anger from Democrats, especially New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for suggesting last week that states struggling with their budgets should not get a bailout from Congress, but instead go bankrupt.
However, McConnell signaled a shift this week, saying that he will negotiate on the funding — but he has a counter-demand: liability protections to shield businesses from a “second pandemic — which is going to be lawsuits against doctors, nurses, hospitals and brave business people opening up.” In his statement Monday, McConnell pointed to the idea as an “urgent” demand for the Senate to address when they reconvene next week.
Pelosi rejects liability shield
In a sign of troubles to come, Pelosi has already dismissed the idea, The Hill reported, setting the stage for another round of contentious negotiations.
“At the time of this coronavirus challenge, especially now, we have every reason to protect our workers and our patients in all of this,” she said. “So we would not be inclined to be supporting any immunity from liability.”
While McConnell appears to have given some ground on the funding for state and local governments, it remains to be seen how he will negotiate with Pelosi on other matters. The Kentucky senator has generally signaled a reluctance to jump into another big spending bill, and Pelosi’s plans, including a guaranteed minimum income, are ambitious to say the least.
However, he is clearly aware that Pelosi has big ideas, and he’s wary. “The American people do not need tangential, left-wing daydreams,” McConnell said Monday. “They need commonsense steps that move us toward the response, recovery, and future readiness that Americans need and deserve.”
Will McConnell hold ground, or will he get played? Only time will tell.