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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The stimulus negotiations are beginning to remind me of running on a treadmill — lots of effort, no forward motion.

Driving the news: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that he would not put a potential $1.8 trillion+ deal struck by Democrats and the Trump administration on the Senate floor. "My members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted is the best way to go," he said.

Why it matters: The economy and American workers need help. Democrats say so. President Trump says so. Fed chair Jay Powell says so, adding that there's a low risk of "overdoing it." At some point, such inaction will catch up to investors.

  • This comes against a backdrop of a still-raging pandemic. Yesterday, for example, showed increased COVID-19 caseloads in all 50 states, while over 100 million Americans remain out of the labor force.

State of play: House Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin talked yesterday and will talk again today.

  • One possible breakthrough is on the Democrats' ask for a national testing plan, which Mnuchin this morning said on CNBC that the White House will now support.
  • No word yet on if the WH will relent on another sticking point, related to expansions of the child tax credit and earned income tax credit. Or if Pelosi will give the WH a win on virus-related liability protections for businesses and schools.

What to know: President Trump said on Fox Business this morning that he would "absolutely" go higher than a $1.8 trillion proposal, and that he has directed Mnuchin to do so. But there isn't actually a WH proposal to negotiate against, at least not in document form.

The biggest hurdle is Senate Republicans, who have been left out of negotiations and who seem uninterested in comprehensive stimulus. One explanation is that McConnell is laser-focused on SCOTUS, but it's unclear why he won't walk and chew stimulus at the same time — particularly given how much Trump wants a deal before the election.

  • McConnell is, however, at least baking some stimulus crumbs by proposing a series of doomed "skinny bills," including an upcoming one to create a second round of PPP loans.
  • Democrats haven't given terribly compelling reasons for why they keep rejecting these piecemeal proposals out of hand, particularly in light of their recent willingness to pass a standalone US Postal Service bailout bill (which, conversely, McConnell ignored).

Where it stands: "I’m proposing what we think is appropriate," said McConnell when asked about Trump's "Go big or go home!!!" directive on stimulus. McConnell issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the Senate's "first order of business" when it returns on Oct. 19 will be to vote on a $500 billion targeted bill — a quarter of what both the WH and Democrats are proposing.

The bottom line: Most of the CARES Act benefits expired months ago, and we're now less than three weeks away from an election in which most of those who've failed to adequately follow-up are on the ballot.

🎧 Go deeper: Axios Re:Cap discusses the stimulus stalemate with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Plus, a dive into AEI's economic analysis of Joe Biden's tax plan. Listen via Apple, Spotify, or Axios.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 27, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Republicans and Dems react to Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation

President Trump stands with Judge Amy Coney Barrett after she took the constitutional oath to serve as a Supreme Court justice during a White House ceremony Monday night. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Trump said Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court and her subsequent taking of the constitutional oath Monday was a "momentous day," as she she vowed to serve "without any fear or favor."

Of note: As Republicans applauded the action, Democratic leaders warned of consequences to the rush to replace the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a conservative so close to the election, as progressives led calls to expand the court.

40 mins ago - Health

U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record

Expand chart
Data: COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

The United States reported 88,452 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: The country confirmed 1,049 additional deaths due to the virus, and there are over 46,000 people currently being hospitalized, suggesting the U.S. is experiencing a third wave heading into the winter months.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day.
  2. Politics: Top HHS spokesperson pitched coronavirus ad campaign as "helping the president" — Space Force's No. 2 general tests positive for coronavirus.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. Sports: MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.
  5. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

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