Congress is unlikely to agree on a new stimulus package before the US election due to "vast" differences over how much to spend, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday.
"We do need another rescue package, but the proximity to the election and the differences of opinion about what is needed at this particular juncture are pretty vast," McConnell said at a press conference in his home state of Kentucky.
McConnell said that while he would like to see legislators rise above their political differences to approve "one last rescue package... I think that's unlikely in the next three weeks."
His statements contradicted President Donald Trump's optimistic comments in recent days, including on Friday, when he tweeted "Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!"
The president had said the day before there was a "really good chance" of an agreement on the new aid measures to address the economic damage caused by Covid-19 before he faces re-election on November 3.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been negotiating for weeks, raising hopes for a huge, new relief package to follow up on the $2.2 trillion CARES Act.
But the prospects for a deal swung wildly this week after Trump abruptly called off talks on Tuesday and then backpedaled amid an outcry from both parties and business leaders as well as a drop in the stock market.
Pelosi said she and Mnuchin had a long negotiating session on Thursday and are due to speak again Friday to discuss pending issues of money and policy.
"I do hope that we will have an agreement soon," Pelosi said on MSNBC. "But as you say, they keep changing their minds."
McConnell said the "murkiness" surrounding the deal is largely due to "everybody trying to elbow for political advantage," but lamented the large number of unemployed workers and need for continued jobless benefits.
Economists say a new round of government support is critical to prevent a wave of layoffs and bankruptcies and to provide support for the unemployed, and the IMF has urged governments worldwide to continue spending measures to shore up their economies as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc.
Trump has downplayed the coronavirus even after he was hospitalized last week after the illness, but fellow Republican McConnell urged people to use masks and respect social distancing measures.
"It's obvious this disease is not gone," he said. "The only way to kill it is with a vaccine."