December 5, 2020

Republicans want to pass a series of standalone stimulus bills. Heres what that means, and why its unlikely to happen.

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  • After abruptly ending stimulus talks on Tuesday, President Trump reversed course and called for a piecemeal strategy to passing some economic aid.
  • In Tuesday night tweets, the president called for Congress to pass $25 billion in airline aid, $135 billion in funds for the Paycheck Protection Program, and another round of $1,200 stimulus checks.
  • Yet the approach of passing standalone stimulus bills has failed before. Past attempts by Senate Republicans saw intraparty differences and Democrat opposition curtail their passage.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also indicated she will hold her ground in supporting a $2.2 trillion stimulus package.
  • After Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin approached Pelosi on Wednesday regarding a standalone airline relief bill, she reminded him Republicans rejected the bill on Friday, according to the speaker’s deputy press secretary.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump is pushing standalone stimulus efforts forward after unexpectedly nixing negotiations on a larger package.

The president shocked economists, investors, and policymakers on Tuesday afternoon when he tweeted that he told representatives to stop stimulus negotiations until after the November election. Trump lambasted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for “not negotiating in good faith,” and called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to “focus full time” on confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

It took just seven hours for the president to reverse course. Trump began pushing a piecemeal legislative strategy in another tweet on Tuesday night, saying Congress should pass $25 billion in emergency relief for airlines and replenish the Paycheck Protection Program with $135 billion in new funding. Minutes later, Trump said he is “ready to sign right now” on another round of $1,200 stimulus checks.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows advocated a step-by-step strategy on Monday, telling Fox that “even if a large comprehensive bill is not possible” the administration can still “go ahead and pass a number of things that we can agree on.”

By focusing on individual aid measures instead of a larger package, Republicans believe they can garner bipartisan support. Precedent, however, suggests such a strategy will be an uphill battle.

The GOP mulled smaller relief bills in July, when Senate Republicans aimed to pass a short-term extension to bolstered unemployment benefits. The CARES Act boosted weekly benefits by $600 but expired that month. The plan inevitably fell through as Republicans disagreed on the duration and size of renewed benefits.

Trump implemented a $300 per week expansion with an early-August executive order, but that extension has since dried up.

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Senate Republicans tried to pass a smaller measure again in September, but Democrats blocked the plan. Republican Sen. Rand Paul also voted against the bill, criticizing the need for more federal relief spending. 

To be sure, House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package on Thursday that included the stimulus checks, airline aid, and PPP funds Trump called for. Yet Senate Republicans balked at the measure, with McConnell deeming its price tag “too high.”

Negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continued for days before Trump nixed bipartisan talks on new aid. Pelosi decried the president’s action, saying in a Tuesday press release the White House is “complete disarray.”

“President Trump showed his true colors: putting himself first at the expense of the country, with the full complicity of the GOP members of Congress,” she said.

After the two parties failed to reach a compromise on a larger bill, it’s unlikely Democrats will entertain the Trump’s backing of smaller measures.

When Mnuchin spoke with Pelosi Wednesday morning about passing standalone airline aid, Pelosi reminded the Treasury Secretary the measure was blocked by Republicans on Friday, Drew Hammill, the speaker’s deputy chief of staff, said in a tweet. Pelosi added that Mnuchin should review the bill “so that they could have an informed conversation.”

As past deliberations have shown, a piecemeal approach faces opposition from interparty differences and partisan resistance. Separately, Trump’s recent decline in the polls suggests the president has little political capital with which to muster a compromise.

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