Pelosi: House will stay in session until agreement is reached on coronavirus relief

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHoyer: House should vote on COVID-19 aid — with or without a bipartisan deal Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in repose at Supreme Court McCarthy threatens motion to oust Pelosi if she moves forward with impeachment MORE (D-Calif.) on Tuesday announced that the House will remain in session until the parties have an agreement on another round of emergency coronavirus relief. 

In a conference call with the House Democratic Caucus — the first since the chamber returned from a long summer recess — Pelosi indicated she isn't willing to accept a "skinny" legislative package, but told her troops the chamber's calendar will be extended until an agreement is sealed, according to sources on the call. 

“We have to stay here until we have a bill,” Pelosi told lawmakers.

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The surprise development reflects both the severity of the public health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the growing pressure Pelosi is facing from the moderate wing of her party, which is clamoring for leadership to vote on another aid package before Congress leaves town again for the elections.

The practical effects of the announcement, however, will likely be slight.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: California seeks to sell only electric cars by 2035 | EPA threatens to close New York City office after Trump threats to 'anarchist' cities | House energy package sparks criticism from left and right House energy package sparks criticism from left and right Hoyer: House should vote on COVID-19 aid — with or without a bipartisan deal MORE (D-Md.) acknowledged that most lawmakers will likely return to their districts when the scheduled session ends on Oct. 2, leaving party leaders seeking to hash out an agreement with the White House. If such a deal emerges, then members would be called back to Washington. In that sense, the dynamics would look very similar to those surrounding the long August recess, when the Capitol was all but empty.

"You could look at it as a distinction without a difference of the last few months," Hoyer said on a press call. "But in another sense it tells members, 'Look, we know the election's coming up, we know you want to go back and campaign. But understand this is a priority ... and that we are going to address it as soon as we possibly can.' " 

Leaders of the Blue Dog Democrats have, for weeks, pressed Pelosi and other party leaders to take up another relief bill preelection. On Monday, leaders of the New Democrat Coalition piled on, warning that lawmakers in battleground districts could be particularly harmed by congressional inaction. And leaders of the Problem Solvers, a bipartisan group, are set Tuesday morning to unveil a new aid package topping $1.5 trillion. 

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“We are not in any way attempting to undermine the Speaker's negotiating positions,” Rep. Ann KusterAnn McLane KusterPelosi seeks to put pressure on GOP in COVID-19 relief battle Clark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race Pelosi: House will stay in session until agreement is reached on coronavirus relief MORE (D-N.H.), a member of the New Democrats, said Monday evening. “Having said that we are taking the position that we want a deal and we don't think we should adjourn until we have it." 

Pelosi on Tuesday said she agreed, vowing to extend the House’s initial recess date of Oct. 2 if the sides haven’t reached a deal beforehand. 

“We are committed to staying here until we have an agreement,” she told CNBC’s Jim Cramer. 

What such an agreement looks like — or whether it’s even possible — remains unclear. Pelosi and the Democrats had passed a $3.4 trillion relief package through the House in May, and the Speaker has since offered to bring the price tag down to $2.2 trillion. But both proposals were roundly rejected by the White House and Republicans in the Senate, who were calling for legislation in the $1 trillion range. 

Highlighting just how far apart the sides are, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFEC flags McConnell campaign over suspected accounting errors Poll: 59 percent think president elected in November should name next Supreme Court justice Mark Kelly: Arizona Senate race winner should be sworn in 'promptly' MORE (R-Ky.) last week offered an even slimmer proposal: a $650 billion package that excluded key demands of Pelosi and the Democrats, including hundreds of billions of dollars in funding for food stamps, the Postal Service, rental assistance and help for state and local governments struggling through the pandemic. 

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The package was a non-starter with Democrats, who quickly shot it down. But that has only fueled the Republican attacks that Democrats are unwilling to compromise on another round of emergency aid, even as tens of millions of workers remain unemployed and tens of thousands of businesses are grappling to survive. 

Even as she vowed to keep the House in session, Pelosi did not back off her insistence that the next aid package must be robust, telling Democrats on Tuesday’s call that “a skinny bill is a Republican bill.”

A number of senior Democrats in the liberal-leaning caucus are racing to Pelosi’s side. Several committee chairs — including Reps. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersPowell, Mnuchin stress limits of current emergency lending programs Pelosi: House will stay in session until agreement is reached on coronavirus relief Omar invokes father's death from coronavirus in reaction to Woodward book MORE (D-Calif.), Richard NealRichard Edmund NealAARP endorses Democrats' measure to overturn Trump payroll tax deferral Pelosi, Democrats unveil bills to rein in alleged White House abuses of power Rep. Bill Pascrell named chair of House oversight panel MORE (D-Mass.) and Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottCongress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out House passes bill to allow private lawsuits against public schools for discriminatory practices Pelosi: House will stay in session until agreement is reached on coronavirus relief MORE (D-Va.) — all spoke up during the caucus call to back the Speaker in her hard-line negotiations with the White House.

Still, not everyone is on board. Reps. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioAirline CEOs, union leaders implore Congress and the administration to avoid Oct. 1 furloughs Airline CEOs plead with Washington as layoffs loom House report rips Boeing, FAA over mistakes before 737 Max crashes MORE (D-Ore.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Kim SchrierKimberly (Kim) Merle SchrierPelosi: House will stay in session until agreement is reached on coronavirus relief Washington Rep. Kim Schrier wins primary US ill-prepared for coronavirus-fueled mental health crisis MORE (D-Wash.), a physician, also spoke up on the call urging passage of another relief package before the next recess. 

Extending the calendar will likely lead to grumbling from some lawmakers, who are eager to return quickly to their districts ahead of the Nov. 3 elections. Some of those members may opt to vote by proxy, a system Pelosi adopted earlier in the year to acknowledge the unique public health threat posed by the coronavirus.

House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesDemocratic leaders: Supreme Court fight is about ObamaCare Pelosi: House will stay in session until agreement is reached on coronavirus relief Races heat up for House leadership posts MORE (D-N.Y.) said the majority of the caucus is in agreement they should remain in session until a deal is reached.

"It's clear to me, based on the calls that have taken place up until this point and the caucus meeting today, that the overwhelming consensus amongst the members is that we stick around until we get something done for the American people," he told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday following the lengthy caucus call.

— Juliegrace Brufke contributed. Updated at 11:58 a.m.