Stimulus Figureheads McConnell and Pelosi Under Fire, Eight Months Since Senate Passed CARES Act

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) are both facing pressure over the continued delay on stimulus with eight months having gone by since the CARES Act relief package passed the Senate.

While there has been support on both sides of the aisle for further stimulus amid the COVID-19 crisis in some form, disagreements on the specifics of such action have led to a prolonged stalemate over measures being agreed upon.

The House has passed two further Democrat-led packages, the HEROES Act and an updated version of this, but these have been met with pushback in the Senate.

GOP leadership in the Senate meanwhile has suggested smaller packages, with a lower topline spend, which backers described as more targeted. However, these have similarly failed to gain traction in the upper chamber.

Each side has blamed the other for a lack of compromise. McConnell has been a constant target for Democrats, having caused ire among his rivals in Congress at several points in recent months.

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Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) leaves after a Senate Republican policy luncheon at the Hart Senate Office Building November 18, 2020 on Capitol Hill. He has faced criticism over the stimulus delay. Alex Wong/Getty Images

"Mitch McConnell is refusing to do anything," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said on MSNBC's The Reidout on Tuesday. "What we need for Mitch McConnell to do is just enter the negotiating room."

He said McConnell had rejected negotiations with Democrats as he is "afraid of splitting his caucus." Murphy commented on Republicans who oppose stimulus action, adding: "Mitch McConnell is sort of putting the unity of his caucus ahead of the survival of the nation."

It comes with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) having pushed for further talks with McConnell, with their staff having recently discussed potential routes forward.

McConnell has previously faced criticism for the Senate breaking for Thanksgiving despite a relief package having not been passed.

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill November 20, 2020. She continues to push for Republicans to accept larger stimulus plans than they have been open to thus far. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

While McConnell is the focal point for many Democrats' anger, Pelosi too has faced calls to alter her stance to some extent.

She has faced pressure from within her own party to accept a stimulus package with a topline spend palatable to Republicans in order to get aid out to the public before the end of 2020.

Republicans have put forward so-called skinny bills and plans with lower topline spends than the Democrats' proposals. Pelosi has previously suggested these have not contained measures substantial enough to combat the crisis adequately.

She also turned down offers from the White House, and some moderate Democrats have previously spoken of regret over not accepting its top offer.

In a recent press conference, Pelosi said: "We have to get something done. And, again, they have been resistant on many of the things that we consider priorities, but everybody knows people are hungry, people are fearing evictions, people need the CARES Act provisions to be extended that address Unemployment Insurance and the rest. I won't go into how they comment on all of that."

The Democrats have also come down on their topline spend, which she has referenced as showing their willingness to compromise. The original HEROES Act had a price tag of more than $3 trillion, whereas the updated version was around $2.2 trillion. Pelosi has also insisted the content as opposed to spending has been her main focus.

McConnell earlier this month spoke of not being willing to go as high as Democrats have called for in terms of the cost of a package, continuing to back previous Republican suggestions of something in the range of $500 billion in measures.

"I gather she [Pelosi] and the Democratic leader in the Senate still are looking at something dramatically larger. That's not a place I think we're willing to go," he said, Reuters reported.

"But I do think there needs to another package. Hopefully we can get past the impasse."

The last major bill, the CARES Act, was passed in the Senate on March 25 and signed by President Donald Trump on March 27.

Newsweek has contacted Pelosi and McConnell's offices for comment on the stimulus situation.