Stimulus talks are stuck as time runs short, Pelosi says
By Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane
Congressional Democrats and the White House remain at an impasse over a fresh package of coronavirus economic relief, as time runs out to get a bill passed before the election, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday.
Pelosi said on the ABC program “This Week” that she was still in negotiations with the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, but that “we don’t have agreement on the language yet.” She said a deal would have to be struck within 48 hours for a package to be enacted by Election Day.
But even if she and Mnuchin reach a deal, Senate Republicans are not expected to accept it. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he does not believe he can sell a package of more than $1 trillion to conservative Senate Republicans, which is less than half the size of the bill House Democrats have proposed. The Democrats have proposed a $2.4 trillion package, named the Heroes Act, that would provide aid to families, schools, restaurants, businesses and airline workers; it includes about $500 billion for state and local governments. Mnuchin, negotiating on behalf of President Donald Trump, has countered with a number of proposed alterations to scale back the package.
On Sunday, Trump said he remained optimistic.
“We’re talking about it. I think Nancy Pelosi maybe is coming along, we’ll find out,” he said. “I want to do it at a bigger number than she wants. That doesn’t mean all the Republicans agree with me, but I think they will in the end if she would go along.”
The White House has proposed changes to the Democrats’ proposal, and in a letter to colleagues Sunday afternoon, Pelosi detailed her objections.
“The White House has removed 55 percent of the Heroes Act’s language for testing, tracing, and treatment,” Pelosi wrote. “Especially disappointing was the elimination of measures to address the virus’s disproportionate and deadly impact on communities of color. The White House does not appreciate the need to direct resources to culturally competent contact tracing.”
She added: “The Administration continues to fail to meet the well-documented need for funds to protect frontline workers in health care, first responders, sanitation, transportation, food workers, teachers and others, and to prevent service cuts to struggling communities.”
Nevertheless, she said, she hoped to find common ground. “I am optimistic that we can reach agreement before the election,” she wrote.
McConnell, who has not been negotiating with Pelosi, is expected to put forward a $500 billion package this week.
McConnell also said Saturday that he planned to hold votes on a stand-alone bill to revive the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal loan program for small businesses created in the spring. Some of the $500 billion in his relief proposal would be used to finance the loan program.
McConnell has faced pressure from moderate members of his conference to act on relief legislation. Trump’s decision to abruptly end talks, and then to reverse course, prompted concerns among Republicans that he had in effect guaranteed that Republicans would be blamed for a failure to provide further federal aid.
Without congressional action and a new round of federal relief, the country’s economic recovery has continued to shudder, and millions of Americans have slipped back into poverty.