Pelosi says COVID-19 aid can’t wait until September: ‘People will die’
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday she hopes negotiations over a coronavirus relief package don’t drag on into next month, warning that kind of delay means “people will die.”
The talks between Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows collapsed last Friday after almost two weeks of near-daily meetings.
The stalemate has left both sides still pointing fingers.
Congress also faces an end-of-September deadline to avoid a government shutdown, raising the possibility that the discussions over how to provide Americans economic relief from the COVID-19 pandemic could become part of government funding negotiations. But Pelosi rejected the idea of waiting that long.
“I hope not, no. People will die,” Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill when asked if she thinks Congress will wait until September to act on relief.
Yet neither Pelosi nor Mnuchin gave any sign that the negotiators will be resuming discussions anytime soon.
Moments before, Pelosi told MSNBC that the two sides are still “miles apart.”
“We have to come to some conclusion. We told them we will go down a trillion if you go up a trillion for the children. Again, let’s meet in the middle. We have said all of that,” Pelosi said. “But until they’re ready to do that, it’s no use sitting in a room and let them tell us that states should go bankrupt.”
Mnuchin, meanwhile, questioned earlier Wednesday whether Democrats are truly interested in a deal because it could be politically beneficial for President Trump.
“If the Democrats are willing to be reasonable, there is a compromise. If the Democrats are focused on politics and don’t want to do anything that’s going to succeed for the president, there won’t be a deal,” Mnuchin said on Fox Business.
During negotiations last week, Pelosi and Schumer offered to reduce their $3.4 trillion total proposal by $1 trillion if the White House would add $1 trillion to their proposal. That would have meant a total package worth around $2 trillion.
But Republicans argue that Democrats’ price tag is too high. Democrats are pushing to include $915 billion to help state and local governments make up for lost revenue due to the pandemic response, but Republicans have offered a fraction of that sum at $150 billion.
“I think the issue is the way the Democrats come up with this trillion dollars is they look at the next two years and they project losses. They don’t think the economy is going to open up — we do. And they look at some of their most problematic states, which had issues before all of this,” Mnuchin said.
The talks have dragged on for weeks even though the enhanced weekly $600 unemployment insurance payments expired at the end of July, as well as a moratorium on evictions.
In the meantime, Trump issued executive orders over the weekend to defer payroll taxes, create a program authorizing governors to provide $400 per week to unemployment insurance recipients, and extend the suspension of student loan payments.
But questions remain about the orders’ effectiveness and how exactly they could be implemented, especially since they could face legal challenges.
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