U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday said that an agreement with the Trump administration on a new coronavirus relief package would have to be reached within the next 48 hours or it won’t get done before the national presidential election on Nov. 3.
Pelosi has engaged in weeks of talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, representing President Donald Trump, but the two officials have been unable to reach a deal even as the number of coronavirus cases is surging again in the U.S. and the economic recovery has slowed.
Pelosi and Mnuchin are negotiating on a package that could cost between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion but have not agreed on specific terms of a national strategic testing plan, among other issues. Even if they do reach an accord, some Republican senators say they are opposed to spending such a sum in addition to the $3 trillion approved months ago by Congress for coronavirus relief.
Pelosi, on ABC’s “This Week” show, said whether she reaches a deal with Mnuchin by Tuesday “depends on the [Trump] administration” and the commitments it makes.
“We’re saying to them we have to [decide] on some of these things (in the legislation). Are we going with it or not, and what is the language,” she said.
Mnuchin said last week he would accept Pelosi’s demands for a national strategic testing plan, subject to minor edits.
But Pelosi said Sunday she considered Mnuchin’s edits to be significant, including changing “shall” to “may,” “requirements” to “recommendations” and “a plan” to “a strategy, not a strategic plan.”
Pelosi said the word changes would give the White House too much flexibility in overseeing coronavirus relief. Mnuchin has said that he does not believe Democratic lawmakers want to hand Trump a legislative victory two weeks before the election.
Aside from the legislative language, Pelosi and Mnuchin have yet to agree on funding for cities and states, child care, tax credits for lower-income Americans, liability protections sought by Republicans and other issues. Both sides want to send a new round of $1,200 stimulus checks to most Americans and restore some level of federal unemployment benefits for jobless workers.
Federal unemployment payments totaling $600 a week on top of less generous state benefits expired at the end of July.