House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin resumed stimulus negotiations on Friday afternoon, just three days after President Donald Trump abruptly halted the talks in a set of Tuesday afternoon tweets and then reversed course. After a more than 30-minute conversation between negotiators, however, an agreement still appears to be far off.
Pelosi and Mnuchin, who’s heading up negotiations on behalf of the White House, spoke on the phone for just over 30 minutes beginning at 1:40p.m. on Friday, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, tweeted out shortly after the conversation took place.
During a Friday morning interview on MSNBC, Pelosi confirmed the renewed negotiations and repeated her position that Democrats are prioritizing putting money in the pockets of American people (meaning federal unemployment supplements and $1,200 stimulus checks); “crushing the virus” (a $75 billion package for Covid testing, tracing and vaccine distribution); and providing additional aid for first-responders, teachers and frontline workers (which translates into aid for state and local governments and schools).
Within minutes, President Trump sent out a tweet saying, “Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!” And in a later radio interview with conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, he doubled-down on that, saying, “I would like to see a bigger stimulus package frankly than either the Democrats or Republicans are offering.”
CNN Congressional Correspondent Phil Mattingly tweeted Friday before the call between Pelosi and Mnuchin that Trump had signed off on a $1.8 trillion offer—up $200 billion from the White House’s last $1.6 trillion offer, but still below Democrat’s revised $2.2 trillion Heroes Act, which passed the House with no Republican support on Oct 1.
During the Friday afternoon call with Pelosi, Mnuchin brought forth “a proposal that attempted to address some of the concerns Democrats have,” Hammill said, adding that, “Of special concern is the absence of an agreement on a strategic plan to crush the virus.”
To that effect, Pelosi is now waiting on updated language from the White House “as negotiations on the overall funding amount continue,” Hammill noted.
The White House is targeting $300 billion in state and local funding—an amount that’s still too low for Democrats, tweeted Politico’s Jake Sherman.
“I do hope that we will have an agreement soon,” Pelosi said, adding that she’s discouraged by Trump’s back and forth in the preceding days.
Senior White House officials have reportedly said they plan to work all through this weekend and next week in order to reach a deal.
“We thought we were on a path, and then the President with no notice to Congress… even bewildering some of his own people then [tweeted] saying the talks are over,” Pelosi told MSNBC on Friday. “He got a terrible backlash from it, including in the stock market, which is what he cares about. And so then he started to come back little by little, and now [onto] a bigger package, so we’ll see what they have to offer today.”
Stimulus negotiations resumed in earnest late last month after a months-long standstill, and experts (including Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell) have since warned some sort of broad relief is necessary for a sustained economic recovery. Mnuchin told Speaker Pelosi on Thursday that Trump was interested again in agreeing on a large-scale stimulus deal, CNN reported, citing Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill. That marked a stark reversal from a set of tweets President Trump sent out on Tuesday afternoon, when he said, “I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business.” Trump later tweeted he’d be interested in doing piecemeal bills, for aid to the airlines and stimulus checks. But in a press briefing Thursday morning, Pelosi said she would not support any piecemeal efforts without a comprehensive stimulus package.
“The situation is kind of murky, and I think the murkiness is a result of the proximity to the election and everybody kind of trying to elbow for political advantage,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday morning from his home state of Kentucky. “I’d like to see us rise above that like we did back in March and April, but I think that’s unlikely in the next three weeks,’’ added McConnell, whose caucus’ last “skinny” stimulus proposal contained only $300 billion in new spending and failed to overcome a Democratic filibuster.
What To Watch For
The response from more conservative Senate Republicans, since McConnell has not been willing to bring a bill to a Senate vote without the support of a majority of his caucus. In a late Friday morning appearance on MSNBC, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) reiterated that a deal was unlikely to happen before the election, adding that, “When [Trump] made that announcement he was reflecting the reality that Pelosi and Schumer don’t want to negotiate… They’re counting on the media to blame everything on the President.”
The Senate isn’t scheduled to reconvene until October 19 after coronavirus cases among Congressional Republicans prompted McConnell to announce a two-week delay in the resumption of floor action. When it returns, the Senate will have a lot on its plate, as it also looks to move forward with—and likely focus on—the confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court Justice nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.
Pelosi Says No Standalone Stimulus Bills—Including Airline Aid—Without Comprehensive Deal (Forbes)