Whatever embers of hope remained for a last minute pre-election deal on a coronavirus stimulus package from Capitol Hill cooled Monday as senators planned their departure from Washington.
“I think it’s about midnight,” Sen. Richard Shelby, the Alabama Republican who heads the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters.
Shelby’s panel would be involved in almost any version of a stimulus package that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been trying to negotiate for weeks now.
Pelosi, in a letter to her fellow House Democratic colleagues, disclosed no signs of movement and took the White House to task for what she said was its lack of follow-through on fighting coronavirus.
“The Republicans’ continued surrender to the virus – particularly amid the recent wave of cases – is official malfeasance,” she wrote.
“We must come to agreement as soon as possible. But we cannot accept the Administration’s refusal to crush the virus, honor our heroes or put money in the pockets of the American people,” Pelosi wrote.
Pelosi and Mnuchin were set to talk again Monday afternoon.
The Senate was prepared to take a vote on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to become an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court early Monday night. That will likely be the last floor vote before the election, clearing senators up for re-election to hit the campaign trail for the final week. House members have been gone since early October.
The Senate is slated to return to session Nov. 9, the week after the election, while House members are not due back until Nov. 16. When they return, they face a deadline of Dec. 11 to reach agreement on another stopgap funding bill to keep the government open.
Whether the odds for a stimulus bill improve in the lame duck session is unclear.
“My sense is that when you get past kind of the hot rhetoric of the moment, that most people believe that even though we can’t do everything, we ought to do something,” said Sen. John Thune, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, on Sunday.
Shelby said he had talked to Mnuchin and his counterpart on the House side, House Appropriations Chairman Nita Lowey, last week. He said did not know if the political dynamics would shift in the lame duck to favor a deal.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”