The House is scheduled to adjourn at the end of this month until after the election. Bipartisan talks on a new relief measure collapsed last month and have not been revived, leading to speculation that Congress and the administration will be unable to reach a bipartisan accord before Election Day.
White House adviser Jared Kushner suggested in an interview on CNBC Tuesday that a deal might have to wait.
“The hope is we’ll still get to a deal. It may have to be after the election,” Kushner said.
The two sides have been far apart. On Tuesday’s call Pelosi also rejected the notion of a slimmed-down or “skinny” bill such as the $300 billion measure Democrats blocked last week in the Senate.
“A skinny bill is not a deal. It’s a Republican bill,” she said on the conference call.
Pelosi has continued to hold out for legislation with a pricetag of at least $2 trillion that would include generous aid for cities and states, as well as unemployment and nutrition assistance, stimulus checks for individual Americans, money for coronavirus testing and tracing, help for the Post Office and elections, and more.
But with Republicans unwilling to agree to such expensive legislation, some Democrats have begun to discuss other options.
The centrist-leaning New Democrat Coalition, whose members include multiple freshman lawmakers in tough re-election fights, held a conference call on Monday night to emphasize the need for action before Congress adjourns for the recess. Lawmakers in the group said they supported Pelosi and wanted a good bill, but also suggested that action to extend unemployment insurance and a few other aid programs would be better than nothing.
The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus in the House released their own attempted compromise Tuesday morning, a $1.5 trillion proposal that could grow larger or smaller depending on infection rates and vaccine progress.
Congress passed four bills totaling about $3 trillion in aid in March and April, but has not acted since. The House passed another $3.4 trillion bill in May, but Senate Republicans and the administration held off on restarting negotiations until July. Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) held multiple hours of talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows but ultimately got nowhere.
Meanwhile many of the programs agreed to in the initial round of spending have expired, including a $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefit that ran out July 31. President Trump stepped in last month with some limited executive actions, including replacing the $600 benefit with one half that size, but the money for that is now expiring.
Some 30 million Americans are currently relying on some type of unemployment assistance. Others face the prospect of homelessness or poverty, and state and municipal coffers are running dry because of the drop in tax revenue, which has already led to mass layoffs.