House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) said that by the end of Tuesday, she hopes to decide whether to make a deal on what could be a trillion-dollar COVID-19 stimulus bill before the election as the Senate moves to vote on a second round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses keep employees on the payroll during the pandemic.
Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke for almost an hour in a call on Monday afternoon where they “continued to narrow their differences,” Pelosi’s chief of staff Drew Hammill said Monday.
“The Speaker continues to hope that, by the end of the day Tuesday, we will have clarity on whether we will be able to pass a bill before the election,” he said on Twitter, adding that Pelosi and Mnuchin will speak again on Tuesday with staff work to continue “around the clock.”
“The Speaker has tasked committee chairs to reconcile differences with their GOP counterparts on key areas,” Hammill added.
The Senate is scheduled to vote on the Republicans’ proposed $500 billion targeted coronavirus relief bill on Wednesday after Pelosi rejected the Trump administration’s “skinny” $1.8 trillion relief offer on Oct. 10—including around $300 billion in state and local fiscal relief that Democrats have been fighting for in their $2.2 trillion bill. Democrats argued that the proposal did not provide enough funding for child care and coronavirus testing plans, and would remove employer liability if employees returning to work get infected with COVID-19 as the economy reopens.
“Nobody thinks this $500B+ proposal would resolve every problem forever. It would deliver huge amounts of additional help to workers and families right now while Washington keeps arguing over the rest,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement on Saturday. “It is heartless for Democrats to continue their total blockade of any aid whatsoever unless Speaker Pelosi gets her way on countless non-COVID-related demands.”
With some Senate Republicans opposed to passing the larger stimulus bill proposed by Trump, the president on Monday indicated that he might intervene if they didn’t pass a second stimulus package.
Over the past several months, Pelosi, Senate Republicans, and the Trump administration have blamed one another for failing to come to an agreement on stimulus legislation amid the pandemic.
Trump has repeatedly criticized the Democrats for using the relief package to prop up what he says are failing Democratic cities and states. The president repeated his accusation on Oct. 17, telling local news outlet WTMJ that Pelosi “wants to bail out poorly run Democrat states.”
“I think even if we gave her the money for the poorly run Democrat states, I don’t think she’d approve it anyway,” he said, adding, that Pelosi wants to hold up the deal “until after the election, and I think it’s bad for the Democrats.”
On Thursday morning, Trump told reporters that Pelosi “does not want to do anything that’s going to affect the election, and I think it will affect the election negatively for her,” referring to talks on the stimulus bill.
White House press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany has accused Pelosi of “not being serious” regarding the Democrats $2.2 trillion bill.
“When you lower your offer $2.2 trillion, and you ask for direct payments to illegal immigrants, and you ask for certain deportation forgivenesses in your offer, it’s not a serious offer,” McEnany said on Oct. 1. “What we are talking about here is relief for the American people, for American citizens, not direct payments for illegal immigrants.”
Pelosi in a letter to Democratic colleagues released Sunday said that she is “optimistic” that an agreement can be reached before the election. She noted that Democrats still do not want to accept the White House’s language and measures proposed with regard to how much funding to provide to state and local governments; whether to commit to a “science-based national plan” for testing, tracing, and treatment with regard to COVID-19; and whether to expand the Child Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Tax Credit, and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
“To that end, we are writing language as we negotiate the priorities, so that we are fully prepared to move forward once we reach agreement,” she said.
Melanie Sun, Jack Phillips, and Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.