WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday said there was still a chance for a deal on fresh COVID-19 relief despite resistance from Senate Republicans, though she acknowledged it might not pass until after the election.
Pelosi said she was scheduled to continue talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday afternoon. She told MSNBC that she wanted the bill to pass before the Nov. 3 election, but suggested Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may be willing to do it afterward. If that happened, she said, it would include retroactive aid.
“I’m optimistic,” Pelosi said. “We want it before, but again, I want people to know help is on the way.”
President Donald Trump has increasingly called for action, but proposals for comprehensive relief have met resistance from Senate Republicans.
At the White House, spokesman Brian Morgenstern said the White House wanted to get a deal done as soon as possible, but added: “I know that I’ve heard some folks on both sides indicating that it may be easier after the election.” Pelosi and Mnuchin are hammering out the details of a relief package that could be in the range of $2.2 trillion, the number Democrats have been pushing for months.
Conservatives in the Republican-majority Senate object to the trillion-dollar-plus price tag under discussion. McConnell does not want to bring a large coronavirus aid bill to the Senate floor before the election, a senior Republican aide said, as he focuses on trying to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.
The White House insists that a bipartisan agreement between Pelosi and Mnuchin would find enough votes for passage in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 53-47 majority.
“I believe there would be enough votes there to make sure that we get that across the finish line and to the president’s desk. Again, the focus on Senate Republicans right now, whether the votes would be there or not, is misplaced,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters.
But there were no signs that Senate Republicans would go along with anything near the $2 trillion mark. Expressing concern about the impact a large spending measure would have on an already ballooning federal deficit, they have proposed smaller, targeted aid to help an economy reeling from the pandemic.
A $500 billion Republican aid plan failed to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate Wednesday, as Democrats voted to block it. The party line vote was 51-44, but 60 votes were needed for the proposal to advance.
McConnell is also moving to get Supreme Court nominee Barrett confirmed by the full Senate next week, an action that Republicans believe would aid vulnerable party incumbents.
Meanwhile, renewed direct payments to households and expanded unemployment insurance were among the provisions being discussed between Pelosi and Mnuchin.