The Senate left Washington, D.C., on Thursday until September — the latest sign that a deal on a fifth coronavirus relief package is, at least, weeks away.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had kept the chamber in session this week, which was technically the first in its August recess, as a last-ditch attempt to create space for the administration and congressional Democrats to get an agreement.
But with talks stalemated, senators argue there is little reason for them to keep holding daily, roughly 1 1/2-hour sessions. The House already left town and isn't expected to return until Sept. 14.
“We will have our regular pro forma meetings through the end of the state work period. If the Speaker of the House and the minority leader of the Senate decide to finally let another package move forward … it would take bipartisan consent to meet for legislative business sooner than scheduled,” McConnell said as he wrapped up the Senate until next month.
McConnell added that he hoped the Senate would be able to “act sometime soon.”
Senators will get at least 24 hours notice to return if congressional Democrats, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows are able to break the impasse and votes are scheduled. Otherwise, the Senate will formally reconvene on Sept. 8.
The House passed the HEROES Act three months ago. The Senate GOP has blocked everything since then. This is one hundred percent the GOP's fault. They can't even pass a bill with their own majority caucus. Nancy Pelosi is running the show and Senate Republicans, facing angry voters, will crack.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that the high-stakes talks between the White House and Democrats on coronavirus relief will resume only when Republicans come to the table with at least $2 trillion.
"When they're ready to do that, we'll sit down," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.
The comments foreshadow a rocky road ahead as the parties haggle over a fifth round of emergency relief designed to address the health needs and economic devastation caused by the pandemic, which has hit the United States harder than any other country.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) had huddled with the White House negotiators — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and chief of staff Mark Meadows — for a full two weeks when the talks broke down last Friday.
Quite aside from specific policy prescriptions, the sides have not yet agreed to the overall size of the next aid package.
Pelosi and House Democrats had passed a $3.4 trillion relief bill in May, while Senate Republicans responded late last month with a $1.1 trillion counterproposal.
The Democrats last week had offered to meet in the middle — somewhere in the $2 trillion range — but the Republicans refused the offer, ending the talks indefinitely.
Things are going to change rapidly for the GOP when the polls start showing them losing by double digits, would be my guess.