President Trump, meanwhile, on Tuesday urged Congress to vote on a much more substantive package than what McConnell prepared to offer.
“STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
McConnell’s decision comes after many Senate Republicans rejected the White House’s $1.8 trillion stimulus proposal as too large and contrary to longstanding conservative policy. With an agreement with Democrats proving elusive, Trump’s top aides again pivoted over the weekend to embrace the kind of more modest proposal McConnell will take up next week.
“Our first order of business will be voting again on targeted relief for American workers, including new funding for the PPP,” McConnell said in a statement. “The American people need Democrats to stop blocking bipartisan funding and let us replenish the PPP before more Americans lose their jobs needlessly.”
Pelosi reiterated her objections to the White House proposal on Tuesday, telling House Democrats in a letter that it falls “significantly short of what this pandemic and deep recession demand.”
White House officials have pointed to significant concessions in negotiations on providing funding for childcare, rural broadband, and funding for state and local governments, among other measures, but Pelosi panned the administration’s latest offer as “one step forward, two steps back” in part because it excluded House Democrats’ national testing and tracing strategy.
The White House’s messaging on economic relief plans has become muddied in recent days. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and chief of staff Mark Meadows have recently said Congress should at least approve a smaller-scale deal, similar to what McConnell appears to now be pursuing. But Trump has consistently called for a giant package, saying last week that he wanted more new spending than even the $2.2 trillion package that Democrats had sought so far.
Still, a Senate vote on a targeted relief package could put some Democrats in the uncomfortable position of voting against financial aid that enjoys wide bipartisan support, such as another round of $1,200 stimulus checks or replenished small business aid. More than a dozen moderate Democrats in the House have suggested support for a Republican-led plan to could force a floor vote on a stand-alone PPP bill, but that effort may not have enough votes to succeed.
Some economists and business leaders have expressed alarm about the costs of the logjam in Congress, with major airline carriers, restaurants, and hotels bracing for steep cuts and layoffs without additional federal aid. Congress allowed a $600 per week federal unemployment benefit for millions to expire at the end of July, although an executive action by the White House provided short-term relief of $300 per week to the unemployed in most states. The funding created by the executive order is mostly spent, said Michele Evermore, a national unemployment expert at the National Employment Law Project.
“There are millions of people in a desperate position right now,” Evermore said. “And without further action, this economic pain will spill out into the community.”
House Democrats have almost uniformly backed Pelosi’s approach to negotiations with the White House. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) has called for Democrats to approve an agreement if the White House approves Democrats’ testing strategy, but so far has been largely a lone voice.