October 25, 2020

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In economic relief talks, White House and Democrats continue trading proposals, insults

“It’s a good offer but it’s one Nancy Pelosi is not interested in,” McEnany said.

“Nancy Pelosi is not being serious. If she becomes serious then we can have a discussion,” McEnany said.

For her part, Pelosi (D-Calif.) criticized the GOP’s proposals as too stingy, contending that the administration is focused on protecting tax breaks for the wealthy instead of help for families and children in need. House Democrats had initially sought a $3.4 trillion spending package before bring the package down to around $2.2 trillion.

“This isn’t half a loaf, this is the heel of the loaf,” Pelosi said on Bloomberg TV of the White House proposal.

Nevertheless, Pelosi and Mnuchin were set to have another conversation Thursday afternoon, a day after they met in person for 90 minutes at the Capitol on Wednesday. The Wednesday meeting was their first in-person discussion since bipartisan coronavirus relief talks collapsed in early August.

Congress is set to adjourn at the end of this week through the election, but before they do Pelosi and Mnuchin are making one last try at a deal.

They remained far apart and seemed almost to be forecasting failure.

Republicans strongly oppose the bill. Democratic leaders canceled a planned vote on it Wednesday but said they planned to move ahead Thursday.

Many House Democratic moderates have been pushing for a new deal — or at least a new vote — in order to show constituents a good-faith effort to find consensus amid worsening economic conditions. Pelosi resisted these demands for weeks.

Pelosi acknowledged Thursday that many of her members are “very eager” to vote on a new bill, but insisted she is, too, adding: “The joy of being part of a dynamic, not rubber stamp, no lockstep caucus is, is, is — wonderful, I have to say.”

The number of people claiming unemployment rose slightly, to 26.5 million, and Americans’ income dropped in August along with the expiration of emergency federal aid programs. Disney announced 28,000 layoffs earlier this week, and major airline companies have indicated tens of thousands of layoffs are possible in coming days without additional federal help. American Airlines has announced it will move forward furloughing 19,000 workers, citing inaction in Congress.

House Democrats’ new bill includes new $1,200 stimulus checks, a renewal of $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefits, aid to airlines, small business relief, and money for election security, the postal system, vaccine development and distribution, and more.

There is overlap in what Democrats want and the $1.62 trillion offer Mnuchin made to Pelosi on Wednesday, which included $1,200 checks, $400 weekly unemployment benefits, and $75 billion for coronavirus testing and tracing, among other provisions, according to two people familiar with its contents who spoke on condition of anonymity to confirm it. There’s also $250 billion for state and local governments, but Democrats want more.

Details of the proposal were first reported by Roll Call.

Pelosi said Thursday that significant differences remain, including on state and local aid, and Democrats’ demand for a child tax credit that Pelosi said the administration opposes.

Even as Pelosi criticized the administration’s proposal for not going far enough, some Republicans were saying it went too far, raising the question of whether congressional Republicans would sign on even if Pelosi and Mnuchin do make a deal. There is widespread suspicion of Mnuchin among some congressional Republicans who view him as too quick to capitulate to Pelosi.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, expressed concern on Fox Business about numerous provisions under consideration, including the amount of unemployment aid and aid for state and local governments. Brady said some help is necessary for the airline and restaurant industry but it is not clear at what cost.

“The worry is: ‘How much wasteful spending will we have to swallow to do this?,’” Brady said. “I do think we need some targeted help. The question is: ‘Is the $500 or $700 billion that’s really needed — is the other $1 trillion on top of it so wasteful that we can’t do that?’ We don’t know that yet.”

Congress has not passed any coronavirus relief legislation since the spring, when they came together on four bipartisan bills totaling around $3 trillion. In the opinion of some Republicans, that was more than enough and there’s no need to do more.

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