Just before McConnell faced reporters on Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) slammed his own party for even considering new spending.
“I just walked out of a meeting that could be sort of a Bernie Bros, progressive caucus,” Paul told reporters. “I’m alarmed that we’re talking about spending another trillion dollars we don’t have.” Already, Congress has approved about $3 trillion in coronavirus relief.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said several senators “were expressing serious concerns that we are spending too damn much money.” During the GOP lunch, Cruz criticized the proposed $1 trillion price tag and said Republicans should focus instead on restarting the economy, according to a source familiar with the discussion.
“What I said to my colleagues is what the hell are we doing,” the Texas Republican said. “We can’t keep shoveling cash at this problem.”
In the meantime, Democrats are highlighting these GOP intra-party divisions as they push for their own massive spending bill. Speaking from the Senate floor Tuesday morning, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the GOP’s ideas “inadequate” and said Republicans are “paralyzed by internal divisions among themselves, and by divisions with the president.”
Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with Mnuchin and Meadows Tuesday afternoon, the first bipartisan meeting on the next package. But Mnuchin and Meadows emphatically told senators ahead of the meeting that they were not negotiating yet with Democrats.
Schumer and Pelosi emerged from the roughly one-hour meeting with White House negotiators with a clear stance that they would not begin bipartisan talks until Senate Republicans release their plan.
Schumer said Meadows was only willing to outline a general proposal, but with no specifics.
“We can’t negotiate on a vague concept. We need a specific bill,” Schumer said.
“We have a bill, let’s see their bill, and see where we go from here,” Pelosi added. “I think their delay is their disarray.”
Senate Republicans have made some progress after two days of talks with the White House, including pushing back on the administration’s initial vow to reduce funding for state-level testing.
“We’ve had a really good discussion on testing,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who has been involved in talks on the spending side of the GOP plan. “I feel better about that.”