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Pelosi says White House proposal on COVID-19 relief is “one step forward, two steps back”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled that there has been limited progress in negotiations with the White House over a coronavirus relief package, saying in a letter to her Democratic colleagues that a proposal presented by the Trump administration on Friday amounted to “one step forward, two steps back.”

“When the president talks about wanting a bigger relief package, his proposal appears to mean that he wants more money at his discretion to grant or withhold, rather than agreeing on language prescribing how we honor our workers, crush the virus and put money in the pockets of workers,” Pelosi wrote. “At this point, we still have disagreement on many priorities, and Democrats are awaiting language from the Administration on several provisions as the negotiations on the overall funding amount continue.”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Friday that President Trump had “approved” a “revised” coronavirus relief package, although he did not offer specifics. 

Earlier, on Tuesday, Mr. Trump slammed the door shut on a deal before the election, but then appeared to change his mind, first calling on the House to pass standalone relief bills and then indicating that he would support a large relief package. In a tweet on Friday morning, the president said, “Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!”

In her letter to colleagues on Saturday, Pelosi said the plan produced by the administration does not include “a strategic plan to crush the virus.” She compared it to the HEROES Act which the House passed last month, which provides a national regimen on testing and tracing.

The $2.4 trillion relief bill would also restore a popular benefit providing an additional $600 per week on top of unemployment benefits, deliver another round of direct payments and provide funding for schools and state and local jurisdiction. The legislation was a slimmed-down version of a $3.4 trillion bill the House initially passed in May.

“At this point, the Trump proposal is insufficient in meeting families’ needs, in stark contrast to the Heroes Act, which secured tens of billions for direct relief and refundable credits,” Pelosi said in her letter. She said the Trump administration proposal would differ from the HEROES Act by eliminating the earned income tax credit, child tax credit and child dependent care tax credit. The Democratic proposal would also include $57 billion for child care, while the White House plan only offers $25 billion.

Pelosi also slammed the administration for including a tax benefit that she said would benefit the wealthy, and offering $200 billion less than the Democratic proposal in unemployment benefits.

Nonetheless, Pelosi indicated she would like negotiations to continue.

“Despite these unaddressed concerns, I remain hopeful that yesterday’s developments will move us closer to an agreement on a relief package that addresses the health and economic crisis facing America’s families,” Pelosi said.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has cast doubt on a potential deal, saying Friday he believed “the situation is kind of murky.”

“I’d like to see us rise above that like we did back in March and April, but I think that’s unlikely in the next three weeks,” McConnell told reporters in Kentucky, referring to earlier bipartisan legislation.

If the legislation agreed upon does not receive enough support from Republicans, who hold the majority in the Senate, it will need to garner votes from Democratic senators. Democrats have indicated they are unwilling to support any legislation under $2 trillion, while Republicans have signaled that $1.5 trillion is their upper limit.

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