Meadows appears in Capitol to talk to Pelosi amid stalled coronavirus negotiations
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said he attempted to meet with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Saturday to discuss moving forward with a coronavirus stimulus package, as negotiations have remained stalled since Aug. 7.
Pelosi, however, was not available when Meadows arrived.
Meadows was on Capitol Hill to discuss additional relief funding with rank-and-file members in both parties and argued Congress should pass legislation that addresses the areas where they’ve found bipartisan agreement.
The North Carolina Republican told reporters that Pelosi was hypocritical for taking up legislation to provide an additional $25 billion for Postal Service operations while opting not to hold a vote on a COVID-19 stimulus package that can pass both chambers.
“I will reach out to the Speaker. I went by. She was in a meeting, and, certainly, as Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin and I, as you know, the secretary reached out a few weeks ago. She made it clear at that point that there was no real need to continue to vote,” he told reporters, referring to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
“But we’re taking this vote on the House floor as a real willingness on her part to look at a more targeted solution. I know I’ve talked to a number of Senate colleagues as well about a more targeted solution to meet the needs. Let’s at least pass what we all agreed to and then leave the things that we don’t agree to perhaps a more laborious negotiation,” he added.
According to sources with knowledge, there was no meeting scheduled between Pelosi and Meadows planned for over the weekend.
“He showed up with no notice. Speaker was in a leadership meeting,” a senior Democratic aide said.
Meadows’s latest attempt to restart talks comes after he and other members of the GOP have pressed Democrats to accept a package even slimmer than the $1.1 trillion GOP Senate bill — a measure combining $10 billion for the Postal Service with several other provisions, including new funding for small businesses and unemployment insurance benefits.
House Democrats had passed an enormous $3.4 trillion coronavirus relief package in May — a proposal roundly rejected by Republicans in the White House and the Senate.
The Senate bill, however, is opposed by even a number of Republicans, which has bolstered the Democrats’ leverage in the talks.
“If it’s urgent enough to come back on a Saturday, you know, hurting small businesses and people that are hurt without jobs [are] certainly a priority as well,” Meadows said, referring to Pelosi’s decision to call the House back to Washington for a rare Saturday session. The house is set to vote on a $25 billion bill for the Postal Service.
Earlier Saturday, Pelosi held a press conference in the Capitol where she rejected Meadows’s offer outright, decrying the absence of key components contained in the Democrats’ HEROES Act — including new funding for testing, food stamps, renters and state and local governments — while referring to Trump’s chief of staff as “what’s his name.”
“That’s totally unacceptable,” she said of his proposal.
“You listed some things that what’s-his-name put forth,” she said. “He didn’t say anything about schools. He didn’t say anything about crushing the virus. He didn’t say anything about people who are being evicted. He didn’t say anything about food insecurity among millions of America’s children. He didn’t say anything about state and local [governments],” Pelosi continued, appearing to reference Meadows.
Meadows said he sees potential for common ground in areas that some perceive as uphill battles.
“I even think that we can come up with an agreement on stimulus checks to Americans and enhanced unemployment. Those issues are not as divisive as we might think. And then, lastly, I think there’s a real willingness to get help with our kids, whether it be with schools and the funding for schools or the funding for daycare in this unprecedented time,” he continued.
“And so we’ve made great progress on all of those areas, and yet the talks continue to be stalled over a number that continues to get articulated by Democrats here in Congress that really they don’t have a basis in terms of what supports those numbers,” he added.
Meadows didn’t rule out the possibility of additional executive action if Congress can’t reach a consensus on a bill.
“Listen, we’re always looking at options that we can deploy from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.,” he said.
“Never underestimate the dysfunction of Congress, and never underestimate the ability of this president to try to figure a way to meet the needs of the American people,” he added.
Updated 5:19 p.m.