President Trump’s top economic adviser expressed confidence Friday that the White House could convince enough Senate Republicans to back a potential coronavirus relief deal with House Democrats despite their open objections to another $1 trillion-plus stimulus bill.
National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Friday that he thinks Trump could get a sufficient number of GOP senators to support an agreement struck by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) if they’re able to strike a deal before Election Day.
“The president wants a deal. Secretary Mnuchin is negotiating a deal. If Speaker Pelosi wanted a deal, I think we could round up enough Senate Republicans to get a deal,” Kudlow told Fox Business’s Stuart Varney in a Friday interview.
Kudlow’s optimistic prediction comes amid a dispute between Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over whether the Senate will take up another massive economic rescue bill.
McConnell on Thursday raised doubts about whether the Senate would hold a vote on a deal between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion, the price tag range between the administration’s offer to Pelosi and Pelosi’s counteroffer to the White House.
The leader said he would instead take up a smaller $500 billion measure next week that’s more closely aligned with the preferences of debt-wary GOP senators.
“My members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go,” McConnell said.
Trump, who said Thursday he’d be willing to go higher than $1.8 trillion, waived off McConnell’s reluctance during a NBC News town hall later that evening.
“They will go. They are going to be very happy,” Trump said.
“If Nancy Pelosi and I – through our representatives or directly, I don’t care – if we agree to something, the Republicans will agree to it,” he continued.
Trump, Pelosi and McConnell have squabbled for months over a potential follow-up to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the $2.2 trillion relief bill Trump signed in late March.
Economists credit the CARES Act with cushioning the initial economic blow of the pandemic, which put more than 20 million Americans out of work and forced thousands of businesses to close, many permanently. While Trump was initially skeptical of signing another sprawling bill, he’s has shown an openness to trillions more in stimulus spending with Election Day looming.
A wide range of economists, including Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell, have warned that a failure to pass more fiscal aid could ignite another cycle of layoffs and business closures that spoil the early gains of the recovery and inflict serious long term damage to the U.S. economy.