(Bloomberg) — The White House shifted tack on Thursday, signaling that the administration is again leaning toward a large-scale stimulus bill after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed back on the idea of individual measures for parts of the economy hit by the Covid-19 crisis.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Pelosi in a 40-minute call that President Donald Trump wants agreement on a comprehensive stimulus package, according to Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesman.
Nancy Pelosi at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8.
Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg
Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said, “we’ve made very clear we want a skinny package,” though she later clarified that position, telling reporters the administration is “open to going with something bigger.” She reiterated opposition to the $2.2 trillion plan from House Democrats.
Prospects for coming to an agreement have proved volatile since Trump pulled his negotiators out of talks on a comprehensive package on Tuesday.
Stocks, too, have proved volatile, with airline shares rising and falling on shifting indications of the potential for a separate aid package for the industry. The broader S&P 500 Index climbed for a second session Thursday, after a tumble Tuesday, when Trump pulled his negotiators from stimulus talks.
Pelosi sent a letter to House Democrats Friday morning casting further doubt on negotiations.
“The Administration does not share this priority of crushing the virus. The President does not have the capacity, leadership or plan for testing, tracing, and isolation that is needed,” Pelosi wrote. “Instead, Trump’s delay, denial, distortion of reality and disdain for science has exacted a deadly and preventable human toll.
Mnuchin and Pelosi held a follow-up call Thursday afternoon with House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velasquez and Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters about small businesses and access to capital.
The negotiations are proceeding against a frenzied backdrop, with the president recuperating from Covid-19 and the final stretch of the election campaign under way. Pelosi and Trump publicly questioned each other’s ability to perform their jobs on Thursday.
Read More: Pelosi and Trump Question Each Other’s Mental Faculties
The House speaker said earlier Thursday there could be no action on a stand-alone bill to aid airlines or any other sector of the economy without an agreement with the White House and Republicans on a broader stimulus package.
Pelosi said airline aid could move through Congress before a comprehensive deal is voted on — but that would have to be advanced in the “context” of a broader bill. “I have made the case to my colleagues that this is a special case,” Pelosi said on Bloomberg TV.
“There is no stand-alone bill without a bigger bill,” she said. Pelosi has also said this week she is pressing for language that would limit Trump’s ability to divert virus testing and treatment funds to other projects.
“I’m always optimistic,” Pelosi said. “Maybe the president seeing the reaction to his walking away