As of Tuesday morning, this was the status of efforts to move a much-needed new round of pandemic-related economic support through Congress: The House had passed a $3.4 trillion bill in May, which was quickly dismissed by Republicans as far too expensive. Talks between the White House and Democratic congressional leaders on a compromise fell apart before lawmakers took an August recess. Upon the Senate’s return in early September, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) staged a vote on a $650 billion bill (of which $300 billion represented new funds and the rest repurposing of previously approved funds), which failed to reach the 60-vote threshold because Democrats, correctly, rejected it as too small.
These events may signify a total impasse, impossible to resolve before the Nov. 3 election — if then. Or they may represent the inevitable political point-scoring each party, and its various factions, had to go through before striking a deal that is in both sides’ interest, as well as the country’s.
The second, more hopeful interpretation suddenly looks more plausible after Tuesday. In part, this is because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said that lawmakers “have to stay here until we have a bill,” despite a legislative calendar that calls for a month-long recess beginning Oct. 2. That’s a clear sign that she’s willing to bargain. And the Problem Solvers Caucus, a 50-person group of moderate House members, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, has released the outline of a compromise that could give majorities in the House and Senate at least some of what they say they want.