What to watch for if Pelosi and Mnuchin strike stimulus deal
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday she’s hopeful for a stimulus agreement this week, which would be crucial to getting a bill passed before the Nov. 3 election, although Senate Republicans continue to be suspicious of a Pelosi-led deal.
“Everybody is working real hard” to get an agreement by the weekend, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on CNBC, saying he had just spoken with Steven Mnuchin following the Treasury secretary’s latest call with Pelosi. The administration’s offer has increased to US$1.88 trillion, but it’s not just a matter of amount, he said.
“I want to stress: We’re not just down to a difference of language and a few dollars,” Meadows said. “We still have a ways to go.”
Pelosi, who has pushed for US$2.2 trillion along with a number of requirements for how the money should be deployed, told reporters that she’s still working toward an agreement this week. “That’s the hope, let me say that,” she said after the Mnuchin call.
Her spokesman, Drew Hammill, later said they are moving closer to an agreement and “both sides are serious about finding a compromise.”
Senate Republicans remain a key roadblock, however, as many oppose a bill on the scale of what’s now under negotiation. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned the White House not to rush into an agreement before the election, according to a person familiar with the matter.
McConnell said his chamber would take up a comprehensive coronavirus stimulus package “at some point” if Pelosi and Mnuchin are able to resolve the final areas of disagreement and get a bill through the House. But he didn’t say whether he would support such a deal, or encourage GOP members to back it.
“It’s very unlikely that a number of that level would make it through the Senate, and I don’t support something of that level,” Senator Mitt Romney told reporters, referring to a number of US$1.8 trillion or higher.
Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby said his staff doesn’t have the details from Mnuchin or Pelosi they need to work out a bill.
“I’m not optimistic about us doing anything,” Shelby said. “We should have done something and we had the opportunity and the Democrats wouldn’t do it several months ago.”
Pelosi had tasked House committee chairmen to work out legislative language on a bill with their Senate Republican counterparts. Talks among appropriations committee members stalled because the levels of spending in accounts they are trying to resolve are interlinked with with areas of disagreement in the core Pelosi-Mnuchin talks, according to aides in both parties.
Nevertheless, Pelosi said in a Bloomberg TV interview earlier Tuesday that “we are starting to write a bill.” She added that she was pleased with the Trump administration’s latest position on coronavirus testing and tracing. The two sides are also “in range” on other health care provisions, she said.