(Bloomberg) — The White House strongly signaled Wednesday that it is willing to increase its offer in talks with Democrats and that Senate Republicans should go along in order to seal a stimulus deal in the next week to 10 days.
Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said President Donald Trump is open to the compromise $1.52 trillion stimulus proposal from a bipartisan group of House lawmakers that was an effort to break a months-long deadlock over bolstering the U.S. economy amid the pandemic.
The long-shot plan from a 50-member group of House Democrats and Republicans has a bigger total spending figure than the administration previously endorsed. It’s also higher than what Senate GOP leaders say would be acceptable to Republicans.
Meadows said on CNBC that the amount is not a “show-stopper.” But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called it insufficient, while Senator John Thune, the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, said a $1.5 trillion stimulus would cause “a lot of heartburn” for GOP lawmakers.
Trump on Twitter urged Republican lawmakers to accept a higher level of spending. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said later at a briefing that the higher level was relative to a slimmed-down Republican Senate bill blocked by Democrats last week.
After initially proposing a $1 trillion stimulus at the end of July, Senate Republicans attempted to advance a bill providing $650 billion in economic aid, without the direct payments to individuals the president — and Democrats — want.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to comment when asked about Trump’s call for Republicans to go higher. Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer released a statement saying they were “encouraged” by Trump’s call for higher spending. “We look forward to hearing from the president’s negotiators that they will finally meet us halfway,” they said.
Stimulus negotiations have been handled by Pelosi, Schumer, Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The Problem Solvers Caucus plan was developed over six weeks with the knowledge of the White House and leadership from both parties. But the track record of bipartisan groupings of moderates in either the House or Senate in brokering major deals has been poor in recent years.
The proposal offered compromises on the thorniest issues in the stalled talks. On aid to state and local governments, the group is backing about $500 billion, splitting the difference between the $915 billion sought by Pelosi and Schumer and the $150 billion put forward by the White House.
Read more: House Moderates Unveil $1.52 Trillion Bipartisan Relief Plan
Meadows said the $500 billion figure is more than the White House estimates that states have lost in revenue due to the pandemic, but added