White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Tuesday predicted that Congress could pass a new coronavirus relief package before the Nov. 3 election, despite a monthlong impasse in negotiations between Trump administration officials and Democratic leaders.
Asked by FOX Business' Maria Bartiromo whether he believed voters could see another stimulus deal before the election, Meadows said: "I do. I'm not sure, obviously, but I do believe we'll see that, only because I've had a number of conversations, probably a dozen sometimes a day, with different rank-and-file members. When you listen to them, they're listening to their constituents."
He added: "I'm more optimistic today than I have been in a long time."
The Senate returned to Washington from its August recess, weeks after bipartisan negotiations over another round of aid collapsed when the two sides could not agree on how much the aid package should cost. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Republicans planned to introduce a targeted proposal -- estimated to cost about $500 billion -- on Tuesday and plan a floor vote "as soon as this week."
“Working families must not suffer more than necessary because Democrat leaders think citizens’ pain may help their political fortunes," McConnell said in a statement. "Congress can, should, and must do more to help. The Senate will vote and the American people will be watching.”
Democrats have offered to come down $1 trillion from the roughly $3 trillion HEROES Act, which the House passed in May. But the White House and Republican leaders want to keep the price tag closer to $1 trillion amid growing concerns over the nation's ballooning deficit.
Meadows urged the two sides to come together and compromise on an aid package, noting there's wide bipartisan support for enhanced federal unemployment benefits, aid for schools, additional funding for small businesses and a fresh round of stimulus checks.
"There's more we agree upon than what we disagree upon," he said. "I think it's time we put politics aside, pass this stimulus, actually allow it to go to the president's desk."
One of the biggest sticking points in talks has been how much aid -- if any -- should go toward state and local governments. Democrats' proposal allocates about $1 trillion in new funding for state and local governments, while Republicans' package includes no new funding for states.
"Right now, the stumbling block is aid to state and local governments," he said. "The number that Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi put forth is just not supported by the facts."
The latest push for a deal follows the release of the Labor Department's August jobs report on Friday, which showed the economy added 1.4 million jobs last month and the unemployment rate dropped to 8.4%. While it marked the fourth consecutive month of job growth in the millions, the economy has so far added back less than half of the 22 million jobs it lost during the pandemic. There are still 11.5 million more out-of-work Americans than in February.