Stimulus checks: McConnell says stimulus package ‘unlikely in the next three weeks’

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while speaking at an event in Kentucky on Friday, said a coronavirus stimulus package is “unlikely in the next three weeks.”

McConnell described the situation as “murky” because negotiations involve people looking for “political advantage.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaking to a group of first responders at Bullitt County EMS in Shepherdsville, Kentucky (Photo provided by McConnell’s press office)

“I’d like to see us rise above that like we did back in March and April, but I think that’s unlikely in the next three weeks,” McConnell said during Friday’s event. McConnell was speaking to a group of first responders in Shepherdsville, Kentucky.

McConnell also said he has not seen President Trump in person since August but they speak on the phone almost every day.

On Thursday, McConnell said he has not been to the White House since August, citing a difference in safety protocols in the Senate.

“I haven’t actually been to the White House since August the 6th because my impression was their approach to how to handle this is different from mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” McConnell said during an event on Thursday.

McConnell later said the White House was not “approaching the protection from this illness in the same way that I thought was appropriate in the Senate.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke for 40 minutes on Thursday about a coronavirus stimulus relief bill, according to a Pelosi spokesperson.

“Their conversation focused on determining whether there is any prospect of an imminent agreement on a comprehensive bill. The Secretary made clear the President’s interest in reaching such an agreement,” said deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill.

At the same time, White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said President Donald Trump wants a “skinny” coronavirus relief bill that includes elements such as direct payments and a bailout to the struggling airline sector.

Pelosi’s office called the statements from Farah a contradiction of her call.

However, “the Speaker trusts that the Secretary speaks for the President,” Hammill said.

In a later update with the media, Farah said President Trump worked from the Oval Office, making calls on stimulus.

“The president remains committed to, we’d like to see airline aid,” she said. “We’d like to see sort of a skinny piecemeal bill if we’re able to get that, that will deal with PPP and with direct payments. But we’re open to going with something bigger, but we’re not going to operate from the 2.2 trillion that the speaker laid out.”

PPP is the Paycheck Protection Program, which expired in August.

Stock markets and stimulus: It’s been an interesting week

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 112 points, or 0.4%, at 28,538, as of 9:45 a.m. Eastern time on Friday, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.7% higher.

Much of this week’s focus has been on Washington, where President Trump sent markets on a sudden skid Tuesday after he halted negotiations on a support package for the economy until after the election.

Investors have been clamoring for such aid since the expiration of extra benefits for laid-off workers and other stimulus for the economy that Congress approved earlier this year.

Economists say the outlook is grim without such support, and the chair of the Federal Reserve has said repeatedly it will likely be necessary.

Regardless of whether Washington can strike a deal before the election, some investors are getting more optimistic about the chances for a big support package in 2021.

If the Democrats sweep the White House, Senate and House of Representatives, the thinking is that they’ll likely approve stimulus for the economy. That could help offset the higher tax rates and tighter regulations on businesses that investors also expect from a Democratic-controlled Washington. Wall Street is seeing a Democratic sweep as more likely than before.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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