With just eight days until the general election, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’s not giving up on passing another coronavirus relief economic package despite compromise in Washington seeming elusive.
It’s possible, if unlikely, that a small economic-relief package will be approved in a post-election “lame duck” session of Congress. More likely, a broader rescue measure could be enacted early next year.
At issue is a relief bill that would send another $1,200 direct payment to most Americans, restart bonus unemployment benefits, fund additional testing and vaccines, provide aid to schools and allocate money to state and local governments, a Democratic priority.
More aid to states and cities could forestall further layoffs. States, which are generally required to balance their budgets, must now do so with less revenue.
“She wants to bail out poorly run Democrat states — they’re poorly run both in terms of crime and in terms of economics. And we just don’t want that. We want COVID related,” President Donald Trump said in regards to more federal aid to states.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Monday there were a number of areas in Pelosi’s COVID-19 relief plan that President Donald Trump cannot accept, that despite lots of progress, “significant differences remained.”
“If she wants to compromise, there will be a deal,” Mnuchin said.
Pelosi said on Sunday the Trump administration was reviewing the latest proposal for relief over the weekend and that she expected a response on Monday, but there is little evidence a deal is close.
Pelosi said the relief bill is predicated on steps that science dictates should be taken to deal with the coronavirus, and “if we don’t, we’re just giving money to the president to spend any way he wants and that has not been in furtherance of crushing the virus.”
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Sunday the administration has made many offers, but Pelosi “continues to move the goal posts.”
Meadows noted the relief bill being negotiated would cost about $1.9 trillion. Pelosi is hoping for a $2.2 trillion package. Meadows says he has a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring a bill to the floor if negotiations with Pelosi conclude successfully.
During Thursday night’s presidential debate, Trump blamed Pelosi that no deal has been reached saying she doesn’t want to do anything that would help him. Democratic candidate Joe Biden countered that the Democratic-controlled House passed a relief bill months ago and asked Trump why he isn’t talking to his “Republican friends” about a deal.
The $2 trillion CARES Act that Congress enacted in March managed to ease the pain of the recession by boosting incomes and spending, and supporting small businesses. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the stimulus prevented a recessionary “downward spiral,” in which unemployed Americans would slash spending, triggering further job cuts and spending reductions. Without additional aid, Powell warned, those dynamics could re-emerge.
Senate Democrats blocked a Senate GOP plan that McConnell brought to a vote Wednesday. The measure contained more than $100 billion for schools, a $300 per week supplemental unemployment insurance benefit, and more subsidies for businesses especially hard hit by pandemic-related downturns and closures. It did not include the $1,200 direct payments that Trump has wanted.
“I’m never very optimistic about the lame duck and I’ve never been surprised,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. “You don’t get near as much done as you think you’re going to get done.”
Republican Senator Richard Shelby, who chairs the Senate appropriations committee, remained skeptical that a deal could be reached before the Senate is expected to leave town next week to campaign.
“I think Democrats would want to wait until the new president is sworn in and do it then and I think Republicans probably would say … the economy’s taking care of it,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
Nexstar Media Wire, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.