Stimulus Negotiations Stall Over Covid-19 Testing Plan As Cases Surge To Record Highs
Negotiations between the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over the next coronavirus aid bill appeared to falter on Monday over a provision related to a national virus testing and tracing plan, and with just eight days until Election Day, the prospect that more federal relief can be delivered before Nov. 3 is fading by the hour.
According to Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill, the Speaker and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continued their discussions in pursuit of a deal on Monday afternoon, but the two camps haven’t reached a final agreement on the legislative language surrounding a national Covid-19 testing and tracing plan.
Those provisions were once a major roadblock in negotiations, but last week Pelosi indicated that her camp and the White House were “just about there” on those issues.
That was after Pelosi said the White House had removed 55% of Democrats’ proposed language on testing and tracing, even though Mnuchin told CNBC days earlier that he was prepared to accept the Democratic plan with only “minor” changes.
“Today, we are waiting for an important response on several concerns, including on action to crush the virus,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democratic colleagues on Monday. “Ten days after Secretary Mnuchin went on CNBC to declare that he was accepting our testing plan, the Administration still refuses to do so.”
The testing and tracing provision portion of the bill isn’t the only obstacle to a deal: there’s no indication that Pelosi and the White House have reached an agreement on additional state and local aid or liability protections, and Pelosi has also said that she remains unhappy with the census and election provisions the White House has offered. That’s not to mention the lack of support within the Senate GOP (13 Republicans must vote with Democrats in order to move the bill forward). Pelosi’s spokesman acknowledged this on Monday: “It is clear that our progress depends on Leader McConnell agreeing to bipartisan, comprehensive legislation.”
Coronavirus cases in the United States and Europe are surging as the weather cools. On Monday, the U.S. broke its previous record (set in July) for the rolling seven-day average of new cases, which jumped to 68,767. New Jersey and Massachusetts are seeing their highest levels of new cases in five months, and Wisconsin and North Dakota continue to grapple with severe outbreaks.
What To Watch For
Both Pelosi and the White House have maintained that negotiations will continue, even if more aid cannot be delivered before Nov. 3. “The talks have certainly slowed down, but they’re not ending,” White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow told CNBC on Monday.
‘A Dangerous Tipping Point’: U.S. Sees Record Spike In New Coronavirus Cases, Higher Than Prior Peak In July (Forbes)
Pelosi: No Agreement Yet On Testing Language As Time Runs Out For Pre-Election Stimulus Bill (Forbes)
Pelosi Says Stimulus Bill Could Happen Before Election–But That Seems Unlikely (Forbes)
Pelosi: ‘We’ve Come To Terms’ On Stimulus Checks, Healthcare Spending—But Differences Remain On State And Local Aid, Liability Protections (Forbes)