Pelosi: House ‘close’ to striking deal with Trump on coronavirus response package

House Democrats and the White House fell short of sealing a deal providing economic help to the victims of the devastating coronavirus, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday night.

But an agreement, she quickly added, is all but assured on Friday.

“It’s fair to say we’re close to an agreement, subject to the exchange of paper, and hope to have an agreement tomorrow,” Pelosi told reporters just outside her office in the Capitol.

“One way or another,” Pelosi said, there will be a vote Friday.

The announcement came after hours of negotiations between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, President Trump’s point person on the second round of emergency coronavirus relief.

On Thursday, the two spoke at least four times by phone in search of a bipartisan stimulus bill that could pass through both chambers — a matter of increasing urgency in a week when the deadly pandemic rocked markets around the globe, shuttered schools, businesses and entire sports leagues and forced officials to close off the U.S. Capitol to the public.

The sides have been at odds over several provisions of the sweeping, multibillion-dollar package.

Republicans, for instance, have balked at the Democrats’ paid leave proposal, fearing it creates a permanent entitlement benefit, in lieu of simply addressing the current coronavirus. Democrats, for their part, have objected to GOP demands that the legislation include language explicitly prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortion services.

It’s unclear which, if any, of those sticking points remains after days of talks. But Pelosi suggested that if any issues remained unresolved on Friday, she’d table them and resume those debates on the next emergency coronavirus bill to come along.

“We’ve resolved most of our differences, and those we haven’t we’ll continue the conversation, because there will obviously be other bills,” she said.

With Pelosi by his side, Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), a key negotiator, explained that the final package that Democrats and the White House produce should not only provide economic stimulus, but is vital for instilling confidence in a country and government rattled by the pandemic.

“We felt that putting together something that the American people would see some cooperation on between the two parties at this moment would be a confidence builder,” Neal said.

Pelosi called Thursday’s mass sell-off in the stock market “very shocking.”

But she said the number one priority of this aid package is to give Americans assurances that they can get free testing for the virus and help stop it from spreading.

“What we’re trying to do is be positive and go forward in a way to work together so that we can have people be tested, tested, tested — that’s what’s really important,” Pelosi said.

Alex Gangitano contributed.

Updated March 12, 9:40 p.m.


Tags Coronavirus coronavirus outbreak coronavirus relief Donald Trump Nancy Pelosi Richard Neal Steven Mnuchin

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