The Trump administration and Democrats made progress in talks on coronavirus stimuli on Tuesday, but still have large disparities to negotiate before the 2020 election, said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Meadows brought up the state of play after a 45-minute conversation between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He told CNBC that the sides had made "good progress" but "still had a lot of work to do" to reach an agreement. Pelosi and Mnuchin plan to speak again on Wednesday.
"I would think that hopefully these discussions will move forward tomorrow and maybe the next day," Meadows said, adding that he hopes "to reach an agreement before the weekend".
In a letter to House Democrats Tuesday evening, Pelosi said the conversation had "created more clarity and common ground as we get closer to an agreement." The spokeswoman said she and Mnuchin urged the Chairs of the House Committee "to resolve differences in funding levels and language."
"I continue to hope that we can reach an agreement before the elections. It will be safer, bigger and better and retroactive," she wrote.
Prior to calling Mnuchin, Pelosi downplayed the importance of a deadline she had set to reach an agreement before the end of Tuesday. To have legislation ready before election day, lawmakers would need to reach an agreement and write a bill before the end of the week, she said.
"It's not that that day was a day we'd have a deal, it was a day we'd put our terms on the table to move on to the next step," Pelosi told Bloomberg .
Tuesday's conversation between Mnuchin and Pelosi continued a desperate rush to secure an aid agreement ahead of the November 3 elections. Democrats and the Trump administration have struggled for months to resolve fundamental disagreements over what the U.S. government must do to lift a health system and economy that is collapsing under the weight of the pandemic.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Speaks during her weekly press conference at the Capitol on Friday September 18, 2020.
Caroline Brehman | CQ Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
By the time the sides got on the phone call, they had narrowed down their target for a general price relief: the White House raised its offer to nearly $ 1.9 trillion, just below the $ 2.2 trillion House Democrats earlier this year Had passed the month. Following a conversation between the two Monday afternoon, Hammill, Pelosi's spokesman, said the spokesman had tasked the Chairs of the House Committee with resolving remaining disputes on issues such as a national testing strategy, an expansion of tax credits and relief for state and local governments.
On Tuesday afternoon, Pelosi said the White House had "come a long way" on a national testing strategy and offered legislative language that addresses the disproportionate impact of the outbreak on people of color. She added that the sides still failed to bridge two of their biggest differences during the talks: state and local state aid and corporate liability protection.
With most of the country maintaining public health restrictions and with some of the financial lifelines created at the beginning of the outbreak long expired, millions of Americans are waiting for help to meet their living expenses or keep their businesses alive. Democrats have long accused Republicans, who cheered months of job growth after the reopening of the states, for failing to understand the weight of the crisis.
"Leader McConnell and the Republican majority failed to understand the gravity of this situation from the start," said Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Senate Minority, D-N.Y., Tuesday.
The GOP has since claimed that Democrats have reached out for expensive measures that exceed current requirements. Senate Republicans plan to vote this week on a tighter bill of roughly $ 500 billion, similar to a Democrat blocked last month. The GOP brought the legislation amid Democratic criticism of its efforts to validate Supreme Court candidate Amy Coney Barrett ahead of the election.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would "sometime" slam a bipartisan bill on the floor of the Chamber if Democrats and the White House reached an agreement. Most Senate Republicans have refused to inject trillions more into Covid-19 response.
During a GOP lunch in the Senate Tuesday, McConnell told his caucus that he was encouraging the Trump administration not to agree on a stimulus agreement ahead of the election as he was concerned about dividing Republicans on major legislative days leading up to an election , reported NBC News. The Washington Post first reported McConnell's stance.
Some at-risk Republicans in swing states could adopt a full spending bill while many other GOP lawmakers would likely oppose one. "It would be hard" to get 13 Republicans – the number it takes to join 47 senators in the Democratic caucus to defeat a filibuster – to support such a bill, South Dakota’s John Thune told Monday Reporters.
McConnell argued Tuesday that Democrats "spent months campaigning for a long, far-left wish list with non-Covid-related priorities". He added that their position was "all or nothing".
The parties have agreed on the need to reintroduce additional unemployment benefits for unemployed Americans, send another round of direct payments, offer a second loan to small businesses, and allocate money to help schools reopen their doors safely. But Democrats and Republicans found nothing in common among a number of other disputes about how much federal money to put in expanded unemployment insurance.
The biggest sticking point is whether to send more aid to states and communities, which in many cases have increased costs and decreased revenue during the Covid-19 outbreak.
"State and local spending is still an issue that remains largely unchanged and is still a long way off," Meadows said Tuesday.
The Democrats recently pushed for more than $ 400 billion in aid. The White House offered $ 250 billion despite President Donald Trump's opposition to what he called a "bailout" for democratically ruled states.
The president's chaotic approach to relief talks has complicated negotiators. After Trump ordered his administration to pull out of coronavirus talks with Pelosi earlier this month, he reversed course and pushed for a comprehensive deal ahead of the elections.
"I want to make it bigger than the Democrats. And not every Republican agrees with me, but they will," the president, who did not participate directly in the talks, told Fox News on Tuesday. Despite Trump's remarks, Mnuchin has apparently not pushed Pelosi to raise the price of her stimulus bill.
Pelosi said Tuesday that Democrats have received "mixed messages" from the GOP.
The speaker was in favor of a sprawling deal rather than separate bills to cover issues such as small business loans, unemployment insurance, or helping airlines to cover payroll. She has been pressured by Republicans and members of her own caucus to accept a limited deal as Americans await relief.
Many economists and policymakers outside the Capitol have said that the US will need more fiscal stimulus to get out of the downturn. Fed chairman Jerome Powell was particularly vocal, warning that lack of action by Congress "could lead to a poor recovery and create unnecessary trouble for households and businesses."
Polls show strong public support for more relief. Nearly three-quarters, or 72%, of likely national voters support a new $ 2 trillion stimulus package, according to a poll published Tuesday by the New York Times / Siena College.
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