U.S. Senate leader says coronavirus aid bill should advance in early 2021

FILE PHOTO: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks at a campaign event in Smithfield, Kentucky, U.S., October 28, 2020. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday said that any new coronavirus aid package should be considered in early 2021, possibly closing the door to such legislation shortly following the Nov. 3 elections.

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, McConnell said, “I think that will be something we’ll need to do right at the beginning of the year, targeted particularly at small businesses that are struggling and hospitals that are now dealing with a second wave of the coronavirus.”

McConnell, who has resisted considering a comprehensive aid package being sought by Democrats, added, “We probably need to do another package,” but said it would have to be “more modest” than the $3-trillion measure the House of Representatives passed in mid-May.

Since then, Democrats have proposed more limited aid of around $2.2 trillion. Many Senate Republicans have questioned the need for anything above $500 billion with others advocating no new additional spending.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been negotiating a coronavirus-relief package with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, said during an interview with MSNBC: “Certainly we’ll have something at the start of the new presidency, but we don’t want to wait that long because people have needs.”

The winner of the Nov. 3 elections -- President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden -- will be sworn in as the next president on Jan. 20.

Reporting by Richard Cowan and David Morgan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Diane Craft