Top congressional Democrats renewed calls for a sweeping coronavirus relief package on Thursday, insisting that voters had given President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his party a mandate to fight the pandemic aggressively.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader in the Senate, cited record-breaking infections across the country, along with the presidential election results, to justify their position that any package must be much larger than what Republicans had been suggesting.
By holding firm to keeping $2.4 trillion in new spending as their starting point, Democrats appeared to be closing the door on the possibility of a year-end compromise with Republicans, who have proposed spending a fraction of that amount.
“This election was maybe more a referendum on who can handle Covid well than anything else,” Mr. Schumer said. “The Donald Trump approach was repudiated and the Joe Biden approach was embraced. That is why we think there is a better chance of getting a deal in the lame duck.”
Leaders in both parties have acknowledged the need for another round of stimulus, but they have yet to agree on the scope and cost of a second package, with Republicans insisting on a much smaller bill than what Democrats — and even the White House — had been advocating ahead of the election.
The potential for agreement appeared to narrow further on Thursday, with a top Republican indicating that Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, was no longer planning to rely on Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to cut a deal with Democrats.
“There hasn’t been any discussion yet between McConnell and Pelosi, but McConnell is not going to rely on Mnuchin anymore to do the dealing,” Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters on Thursday morning. “I think he’s intending to take it over and try to get something going.”
Mr. McConnell, for his part, told reporters on Capitol Hill that “my view is, the level at which the economy is improving further underscores that we need to do something at about the amount that we put on the floor in September and October,” referring to the targeted $500 billion packages Senate Republicans tried to pass before the election.
The price tag Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer were discussing, he said, “is not a place I think we’re willing to go, but I do think there needs to another package.”
But Ms. Pelosi portrayed Republicans as “cold-hearted” for insisting on a smaller relief package and tried to upbraid them.
“It’s like the house is burning down and they just refuse to throw water on it,” she said.
Both sides will also have to reach an agreement on critical spending legislation to prevent a lapse in government funding on Dec. 11, with either an agreement on the dozen annual must-pass bills or another stopgap spending bill.
Nicholas Fandos, Emily Cochrane and Alan Rappeport
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