Republicans Renew Drive for Smaller Stimulus Bill After Election

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(Bloomberg) — The White House, Senate Republicans and House Democrats all said Friday that talks should resume immediately on a stimulus package, but without giving indications of whether they are willing to make the compromises necessary to get it done.

After Democrats failed to make significant gains in congressional elections and the latest jobs numbers showed a bigger-than-expected drop in the U.S. unemployment rate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for a scaled back relief bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also said that coronavirus relief is an immediate need, but she hasn’t signaled whether she would accept a bill less than the $2.4 trillion Democrats had pressed for before the election.

“I am calling on the administration to come back to the table,” Pelosi said at a Friday news conference. She said that stimulus is needed now even as the Democrats prepare for Joe Biden — who’s leading in the presidential-election count — to take the White House.

McConnell highlighted a strengthening labor market with the unemployment rate declining to 6.9% in October in arguing for a targeted package.

“That clearly ought to affect the size of any additional stimulus package we do,” McConnell said at a press briefing in Kentucky Friday, referring to the October employment report, which showed a 1 percentage point drop in the jobless rate, to 6.9%.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said earlier that President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, along with McConnell, still want a stimulus deal after months of stalemate with Pelosi.

With Trump behind in the presidential count and making charges of fraud, it’s unclear whether Democrats and Republicans will be able to compromise on a Covid-19 relief bill in the lame duck session of Congress that precedes the new administration taking office in January.

“It would be to everybody’s advantage to get it done in the lame duck,” Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt, a member of McConnell’s leadership team, said Friday morning.

Even so, Democrats still have a chance of taking Senate control, with two seats in Georgia heading for runoff elections in January. That keeps a so-called blue-sweep scenario in play, and could affect appetites for a stimulus deal in the meantime.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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