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McConnell at an April 21 press conference. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell panned the idea of using a coronavirus stimulus bill to fund major infrastructure investment in a conference call today with Republican senators.

Why it matters: President Trump has been floating the idea — and McConnell is moving early to crush it and more generally, encouraging Republican senators to buck the president's freewheeling spending ideas.

Behind the scenes: On today's call, McConnell said he won't support infrastructure in a COVID-19 bill. "We need to keep the White House in the box," he told senators, according to two sources familiar with the call.

  • "The Democrats and the White House both need to get the message," McConnell said, according to the sources.

The backstory: This is not the first time McConnell has privately told his colleagues he's uncomfortable with the White House's attitude towards spending.

  • One of the sources said that on a call with senators last week, "McConnell was essentially saying that, while the president will be willing to spend any amount of money between now and November, it was going to be up to Senate Republicans to act like Republicans and resist crazy spending."
  • Asked about these comments, a spokesman for McConnell said he did not have anything to read out from the call.

The big picture: McConnell has also been sounding the alarm about spending in his public statements. He said he favored letting states declare bankruptcy, which drew sharp rebukes from prominent Democratic governors such as Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo of New York.

  • McConnell blocked additional money to state and local governments in the last coronavirus bill. And he said it's time to think about the national debt.

Go deeper

Aug 4, 2020 - Podcasts

The debate over COVID-19 liability protections

Stimulus talks continue to move slowly, with Democrats and Republicans unable to agree on whether or not to include coronavirus-related liability protections for businesses, health facilities and schools.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the debate, which could reset the cost-benefit analysis for businesses thinking about reopening and employees thinking about returning.

Editor’s note: This episode has been updated to clarify that McConnell said a "second pandemic" of litigation could be coming, not legislation.

Trump defends idea of accepting Republican nomination at White House

President Trump on Wednesday defended the idea of delivering his Republican nomination speech from the White House, claiming it would save "tremendous amounts of money for the government in terms of security and traveling."

Why it matters: A number of Republicans, not to mention Democrats, have questioned both the optics and the legality of Trump delivering his acceptance speech from the White House, given past presidents have drawn a firm line between the White House and presidential campaigns.

Fed chair says low interest rates aren't driving stock market prices

Jerome Powell. Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / Getty Images

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday that rock-bottom interest rates aren't playing a role in driving stock prices higher, while noting that vulnerabilities to the financial system are "moderate."

Why it matters: The statement comes amid unshakeable stock prices and a Reddit-fueled market frenzy — prompting widespread fears of a bubble and the role monetary policy has played in that.