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Biden Eyes Trillion-Dollar Stimulus as Negotiations Hit a Wall

Michael Rainey

September is just around the corner, but the impending arrival of fall has done little to inspire lawmakers and the Trump administration to come to an agreement on the next coronavirus stimulus bill.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said late last week that the Trump administration would support a $1.3 trillion bill, moving up from the $1 trillion he has cited in the past – and higher than some Senate Republicans have said they would support.

Saying she was willing to meet Republicans halfway, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated that she would reduce the size of her proposed stimulus bill from $3.4 trillion to $2.2 trillion. But that still leaves an enormous gap between the two parties.

On “Meet the Press” Sunday, Meadows sounded like he had reached his limit, accusing Pelosi of being “willing to turn down $1.3 trillion of help that goes to the American people because she would rather them have nothing than to give way” on her offer.

‘Bad blood’ not making things easier. Part of the problem, The Hill’s Mike Lillis and Scott Wong say, is the fundamental lack of respect between Meadows, a tea part insurgent who has embraced President Trump, and Pelosi, the ultimate Washington insider. “As the parties scramble for an elusive deal on another round of coronavirus relief, mistrust and bad blood between two of the principal negotiators ... have snarled the talks and complicated the path to a timely agreement,” they wrote Monday.

While some of the sniping between the two leaders could be dismissed as political maneuvering that aims to motivate voters ahead of the election, there are fundamental political and philosophical issues at stake. The dispute highlights “the stark ideological differences between the sides when it comes to the government’s role in responding to the public health and economic crises sparked by the coronavirus pandemic — differences all but epitomized in the figures of Pelosi and Meadows,” Lillis and Wong say.

Biden mulls his own coronavirus relief package. If negotiators are unable to move beyond the current stalemate, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden may need to move quickly on a coronavirus relief package in January, should he win the election, Axios reported Monday.

Biden’s economic advisers are “are growing increasingly worried that the economy is deteriorating by the day,” Axios’ Hans Nichols and Felix Salmon said, and are warning that “problems can compound and cascade — including business bankruptcies, supply chain disruptions, mass evictions, and huge shortfalls in state and local budgets.”

Jake Sullivan, a senior policy adviser to Biden, told Axios that, “We have always contemplated the need for additional stimulus. We will confront the situation we find in January.”

While Biden’s team hasn’t discussed the plan publicly, advisers say the stimulus package would be in the $1 trillion to $2 trillion range, depending on what Congress is able to do before January. And that’s completely separate from Biden’s previously announced plan to spend roughly $3.5 trillion on clean energy, infrastructure, education and a host of other initiatives designed to revitalize the economy and combat inequality.

One thing motivating Biden’s advisers, many of whom served in the Obama administration, is the perceived failure of the fiscal response to the Great Recession. “They feel that the 2009 stimulus package — the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — was woefully inadequate,” Nichols and Salmon said. “And they're determined not to make the same mistake twice.”

Republicans have also said that they would push more relief spending in January, should Trump win the election. “Trump's call for a $2 trillion infrastructure bill back in March would be a starting point for a 2021 stimulus,” Nichols and Salmon said.

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