Pelosi, Meadows to restart COVID-19 relief talks
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and White House chief of Staff Mark Meadows plan to speak Thursday afternoon, sources said, restarting negotiations on a much-needed coronavirus stimulus package that have been at a standstill for the past three weeks.
The call will happen at 2:30 p.m., sources on Capitol Hill and at the White House said. It will mark the first time Pelosi will have spoken to White House negotiators about a pandemic relief package since Aug. 7.
But the two sides are far apart. House Democrats passed a massive $3.4 trillion coronavirus package in May, but it was rejected by Republicans in the White House and the Senate. Senate Republicans offered a $1.1 trillion package — including a $10 billion boost for the U.S. Postal Service — but Meadows is pushing for an even slimmer bill.
Meadows has been trying to jump-start talks with Pelosi for several days. Last weekend, after meeting with rank-and-file lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Meadows dropped by the Speaker’s office unannounced and tried to get a meeting with her. He was told she was busy.
Meadows, appearing at a Politico event on Wednesday, said he’s asked his staff to continue reaching out to Pelosi this week. Those efforts have paid off, but Meadows said he was “not optimistic” about reaching a deal.
He said he thinks Pelosi will “hold out until the end of September” so she can tie the stimulus package to a must-pass bill to avert a government shutdown before the election.
Pelosi has signaled Democrats are willing to drop their package’s price tag $1 trillion if Republicans agree to boost their package by $1 trillion.
But the Speaker downplayed the planned phone call during a news conference on Thursday, saying she was simply returning Meadows’s call and that it could be a “very short conversation if they’re not ready to meet in the middle.”
“They have to move. They have to move. Why should there be a bill that has far less than what the public needs. We have that responsibility, and they’re just going to have to come up with more money,” Pelosi told reporters. “We need a flood of money for this. We have a pandemic and the economic consequences of, again and again, bad numbers in terms of unemployment today.
“And they are coming in with an eyedropper.”
Pelosi also spoke as if she had forgotten Meadows’s name at one point — “what’s his name? she asked reporters — and then referred to him as a someone who is “staffing” the White House’s lead negotiator on coronavirus, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.