Almost before the ink is dry on Trump’s signature on the $2 trillion stimulus bill, Democrats are agitating for another one.
Indeed, another infusion of cash in the economy and more checks to Americans may become necessary. But Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans want to wait and see some of the effects of the first stimulus bill before entertaining another.
The two leaders, whose public relationship has been tense in recent weeks, are taking different tactics on follow-up legislation and sparring through the media on next steps to address the devastating economic and health effects of the pandemic.
The mixed messaging, which comes as lawmakers are out of town until at least April 20, underscores the looming challenge of keeping the congressional response to the coronavirus bipartisan. The first three bills passed with overwhelming support on both sides of the aisle.
That’s not likely this time. Pelosi wants to front-load the next stimulus bill with all sorts of goodies for unions and special interest groups.
Pelosi has held near-daily calls with reporters and moved aggressively to outline what she views as top priorities for Democrats in the next measure: transportation, free coronavirus treatment, more money for states, and other issues such as worker protections and boosted paid family and sick leave.
“The coronavirus is moving swiftly, and our communities cannot afford for us to wait. House Democrats will continue to work relentlessly and in a bipartisan way to lift up American families and workers to protect their health, economic security and well-being today and throughout this crisis,” Pelosi said Friday.
McConnell, meanwhile, reiterated what he’s been telling Pelosi for months: no unrelated items in the stimulus bill. And the White House is on board with McConnell’s “wait-and-see” attitude regarding the last stim bill.
Larry Kudlow, head of the National Economic Council, echoed McConnell by saying existing coronavirus measures should be given a chance to make an impact.
“I don’t want to disagree with the Speaker. And I’m just saying, let this thing play out,” he told reporters at the White House on Friday.
McConnell will attempt to hold the line, but the need may very well outweigh the desire for caution. Democrats are going to pass their own “Christmas tree” bill and dare McConnell to reject it.
The problem for McConnell is that Pelosi is probably going to have something drafted before the end of April. Senate Republicans need to match her planning or could wind up having little input into the final legislation. That’s what happened with the second stimulus bill, which included paid leave and other Democratic agenda items.
There is no public outcry for another stimulus bill — yet. But another 30 days shut down and people will realize that unless Congress acts, they may not have jobs when things return to normal.