House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement to her Democratic colleagues on Friday that while she’s hopeful the sides will reach agreement on a CCP virus relief bill as talks continue, there remain key areas of “significant disagreement.”
Pelosi identified five “notable areas of concern” in which the sides do not see eye-to-eye: unemployment insurance, state and local funding, child care support, money for testing and tracing, and appropriations.
She said there are “other areas of disagreement” but did not provide specifics other than to say that they are “part of the discussion” as the sides work to hammer out a compromise.
The Democrat-controlled House narrowly passed a $2.2 trillion relief bill Thursday night, a move that came after a burst of negotiations between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on a smaller, potentially bipartisan measure.
The Trump administration delivered concessions Wednesday, including raising the overall value of the package and agreeing to a $400 per week pandemic jobless benefit that puts it in same ballpark as Democrats demanding a $600 weekly enhanced benefit.
“We raised our offer to $1.6 trillion,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Thursday. “It’s one that she is is not interested in,” referring to Pelosi rejecting the offer as insufficient.
“This isn’t half a loaf, this is the heel of the loaf,” Pelosi said in an interview Thursday.
Mnuchin, in an interview on Fox News Wednesday said that a deal, if reached, will contain another round of stimulus checks to American families “similar” to $1,200 stimulus checks that were part of the CARES Act.
While he did not provide details on areas of agreement, he said both sides want more funds for the popular Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses, more aid to airlines, funding for schools so they can safely reopen, and money for testing and vaccines.
Mnuchin said President Donald Trump instructed him and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to “come up significantly” from the $1 trillion deal they had been working on, adding that the president “would like to do a deal that’s a fair deal and something that can help the American public right now.”
Pelosi, in her letter to Democrat colleagues, said the Republican offer of enhanced unemployment benefits “does not measure up to the need that we both recognize, particularly as long-term unemployment rises and families are exhausting their benefits.”
The U.S. economy added 661,000 jobs in September, while the unemployment rate fell from 8.4 percent in August to 7.9 percent last month, Friday’s Labor Department figures show. Still, while the labor market recovery continues from the lockdown-driven lows of March and April, it is doing so at a slowing pace. Employment growth peaked in June, when payrolls jumped by a record 4.781 million jobs, dropping to 1.761 million jobs added in July, and 1.489 million in August. So far, the economy has recovered around half of the 22 million jobs lost due to lockdowns and other measures.
A separate report from the Commerce Department showed that while consumer spending, which accounts for around two thirds of U.S. gross domestic product, rose by 1 percent in August, personal income fell by 2.7 percent, while disposable personal income fell by 3.2 percent, suggesting Americans are increasingly having to rely on savings to meet spending needs.
Pelosi also called for more state and local funding, citing Friday’s nonfarm payrolls report, which while it showed an overall gain of 661,000 jobs in September, also showed that 280,000 teachers and support staff have lost their jobs, with 49,400 of those lost at the state level and 231,100 lost at the local level.
The $2.2 trillion bill Democrats passed in the House backs an aid package to state and local governments to a still-huge $436 billion, and $225 billion to colleges and universities.
In her statement, the speaker also said Democrats have allocated $57 billion for Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, while the Republicans are offering $25 billion and Democrats are “pushing them to come up to the higher level.”
She also said the White House is suggesting cutting $44 billion from the Democrat $144 billion proposal in the appropriations section, in which many priorities of the bill are addressed.
“We continue to work on the text to move quickly to facilitate an agreement,” she added.
Chief of staff Mark Meadows said Trump won’t approve legislation that approaches a $2 trillion threshold.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) expressed support for the talks and another bill. He has insisted on a liability shield for businesses fearing CCP virus-related lawsuits after they reopen their doors, which Democrats find objectionable.
“I’d like to see another rescue package. We’ve been trying for months to get there,” McConnell told reporters Thursday. “I wish them well.”