Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi indicated on Thursday that the Democratic-led chamber will move to pass their own $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, despite ongoing negotiations with the Trump administration and Republicans’ disapproval of the legislation they plan to approve.
The California Democrat, though more optimistic on the prospects for a potential deal than she was previously, made clear that she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin still do not have an agreement and remain far apart on several issues.
“I’m hopeful, but we do come at it from two different places,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference. “We not only have a dollars debate, we have a values debate. Still, I’m optimistic.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany confirmed to reporters at the White House Thursday that the administration gave a $1.6 trillion counter-offer during a meeting between Pelosi and Mnuchin on Wednesday. But the $600 billion gap will be a difficult one to close, considering the Republicans’ lack of appetite for any package above $1 trillion. One of the few issues that the two sides can agree on is a second round of $1,200 checks.
McEnany cast doubt on the ongoing talks, as Pelosi persists in her refusal to drop below $2.2 trillion.
“Nancy Pelosi is not being serious,” McEnany said. “If she becomes serious, than we can have a discussion here. We raised our offer to $1.6 trillion … It’s a good offer, but it’s one Nancy Pelosi is not interested in.”
The discussions between Pelosi and Mnuchin will continue Thursday, amid pleas from airlines for immediate relief as they prepare to lay off tens of thousands of workers. For Congress, it is likely a “now or never” moment, as lawmakers prepare to embark Washington and hop to the campaign trail for the remaining weeks of the election. If a deal can’t be reached this week, before Congress adjourns, there are few insiders in the nation’s capital who feel an agreement will materialize before November 3.
“I never say this is the last chance until Election Day, although that’s 33 days away,” Pelosi said.
The Democrats’ $2.2 trillion bill, which they’ve dubbed the Heroes Act 2.0, is scaled down from the original $3.4 trillion Heroes Act passed in May. It includes a second round of checks, a $600 weekly unemployment boost, $225 billion for education, $436 billion for state and local governments, food aid, assistance for airlines and renters, and money for the Paycheck Protection Program.
The package emerged as a result of pressure from moderate and vulnerable Democrats, who’ve pushed House leadership to pass additional relief before Election Day. Republicans have already made clear it’s a non-starter.
Pelosi said the decision to vote on their $2.2 trillion measure and the bipartisan deal have “no relationship to each other, except to say, ‘this is what we are pushing for.'”
Mnuchin’s $1.6 trillion counter-offer, according to Roll Call, includes a $400 weekly jobless benefit boost, $250 billion for state and local governments, $150 billion for education, rental assistance and food aid.
Pelosi said they remain “way off” on state and local government (about $186 billion), while other aspects are “in the ballpark.” She added that she and Mnuchin are “coming closer” on health care provisions and small-business aid.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has not been personally involved in the talks between Pelosi and Mnuchin, offered good wishes for the stimulus talks.
“I’d like to see another rescue package,” the Kentucky Republican said. “We’ve been trying for months to get there. I wish them well.”
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