While Democrats and the White House are on the verge of signing a coronavirus economic deal, it could take much longer to write and vote on a bill, House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.
The California Democrat plans to speak to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin again on Thursday to reach an aid deal. While the spokeswoman said the sides were "almost there" to reach a deal, she warned that the law would take some time to pass as she and the Trump administration try to iron out remaining issues.
"If we can resolve some of these issues in the next few days, it will be a while before we get the bill," Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol.
The House spokesman said the sides had still not reached consensus on several issues that had confounded negotiators over and over again during months of talks. These include grants to state and local governments, corporate liability protection, and funding for the US census and electoral systems.
Failure to reach an agreement meanwhile has made it virtually impossible for lawmakers to pour money into the fight against Covid-19 or boost a weak economy ahead of the November 3 elections. However, Pelosi said she believed "both sides want to reach an agreement" in what she described as a "serious attempt" to provide assistance.
"We can do something great and I am still optimistic we can do it," she said.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters from Capitol Hill in Washington, United States, about the need for additional relief from coronavirus during her weekly press conference on October 22, 2020.
Hannah McKay | Reuters
Efforts to provide more momentum are fraught with pitfalls as Democrats and the White House discuss laws that would cost about $ 2 trillion. Most Senate Republicans are opposed to another massive spending program, and it's unclear what kind of package could get enough votes to get through the GOP-held chamber.
Some Republican senators, like Florida’s Marco Rubio, have signaled they could support a high-cost bill fearing that inaction would cause ongoing economic damage.
President Donald Trump's differing positions on an aid bill also complicated the process. Pelosi said the president was "all over the map" after first breaking off talks and then claiming he wanted to spend more than even the $ 2.2 trillion Democrats proposed.
During the slog to reach an aid deal, Democrats and Republicans have increasingly described their differences as fundamental disagreements about the role the government must play in helping the country emerge from the economic and health crisis.
Congress's ability to pass laws during what is known as the post-election lame duck period may depend on who wins the crucial races for the White House and the seats in Congress. If the presidency or control of the Senate changes hands, the shift wouldn't take effect until January.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and many economists have warned of the potentially devastating economic consequences if Congress fails to provide further incentives. After the $ 600 weekly unemployment benefit expired in the summer, economic problems have worsened for many Americans.
The US got some good economic news on Thursday when the Department of Labor reported that initial jobless claims fell to their lowest level since March last week.
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