McConnell says pre-election COVID-19 deal unlikely

WASHINGTON, Oct 9 (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Friday that the White House and Congress were unlikely to reach a deal on a COVID-19 economic stimulus ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

“We do need another rescue package. But the proximity to the election and the differences of opinion what is needed at this particular juncture are pretty vast,” he told a news conference in his home state of Kentucky.

The leading Republican in Congress, McConnell said he hoped lawmakers could rise above partisan jockeying to agree on “hopefully one last rescue package,” but added: “I think that’s unlikely in the next three weeks.”

President Donald Trump, a Republican, showed renewed interest in forging a deal after withdrawing his administration earlier this week from talks with House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the leading Democrat in Congress.

After speaking to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday, Pelosi voiced confidence they could agree on legislation to “crush” the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected at least 7.6 million people in the United States and killed more than 212,000.

McConnell said prospects for standalone assistance for the airline industry were unclear.

“If there’s another package, I think there’s pretty widespread agreement that airlines ought to be part of it,” McConnell said. “As to whether the system would swallow an airlines only … that’s not clear either. So, I just think the situation’s kind of murky.”

Reporting by David Morgan and Susan Heavey; editing by Andy Sullivan and Howard Goller