Senate Republicans lashed out at a potential framework for a new coronavirus deal between the Trump administration and Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a conference call Saturday, October 10, 2020, warning that there was little support for a big spending bill right before the election.
At least two GOP senators warned White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that spending as much as $2 trillion on a big bill could backfire at the ballot box. The administration has floated a large spending deal to Pelosi but is trying to get her to back down on some spending levels, but senators said even the White House wants to spend too much, according to multiple sources briefed on the call.
“There’s no appetite right now to spend the White House number or the House number,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), according to two sources briefed on the call.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said that giving into Pelosi on anything seen as an expansion of Obamacare in the next recovery bill will be seen as “an enormous betrayal by our supporters,” according to people familiar with the call.
The pushback from Senate Republicans shows just how difficult it will be to assemble a spending bill that can garner support from enough House Democrats and Senate Republicans to satisfy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
The stern response prompted Meadows to say that he would take their concerns back to President Donald Trump.
Incumbent GOP senators and House Democrats are eager for a deal before the Nov. 3 election, as is Trump, who wants negotiators to “go big” now after previously telling them to pull the plug. The administration officials said no deal was done yet, but even the framework discussed on Saturday produced plenty of skepticism among the Republican ranks.
This would be “the deal knell for our majority if Pelosi gets this win,” warned Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), according to one source. Both she and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) warned Republicans could lose support in the election if they accepted this.
Lee added that the GOP’s efforts to highlight Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who is on track to be confirmed before the election, could be hampered by a large spending deal with Pelosi. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) alleged that any such a large spending bill could deflate the economic recovery from the coronavirus devastating economic effects.
“I don’t get it,” Scott said of a potential massive spending bill negotiated by Pelosi and the administration. Scott and other conservatives are eager to attack what they see as wasteful spending proposals that would go to state and local governments.