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Pelosi: We need to put COVID-19 deal on the floor 'that will become law'

Pelosi: We need to put COVID-19 deal on the floor 'that will become law'
© Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 | Lawmakers see better prospects for COVID deal after election Overnight Health Care: House Dem report blasts Trump coronavirus response | Regeneron halts trial of antibody drug in sickest hospitalized patients | McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday said that she has no intention of staging a vote on emergency coronavirus legislation if it lacks the bipartisan support to win President TrumpDonald John TrumpStephen Miller: Trump to further crackdown on illegal immigration if he wins US records 97,000 new COVID-19 cases, shattering daily record Biden leads Trump by 8 points nationally: poll MORE's signature.

"We could put a bill on the floor, but we want to put a bill on the floor that will become law," Pelosi said in an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.

The comments will be a disappointment to some moderates in her caucus who, furious with the partisan impasse over the next round of emergency relief, are calling for Pelosi to bring another Democratic bill to the House floor, both to pressure Republicans back to the negotiating table and to provide vulnerable lawmakers with political ammunition when they return to their purple districts.

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Some are calling for party leaders to "recalibrate" the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act, passed by the House in May, while others want a more targeted approach to address the public health crisis, rampant joblessness and threat to small businesses posed by the deadly pandemic.

Pelosi, who had negotiated successfully with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinDemocrats call Trump's COVID-19 response 'among the worst failures of leadership in American history' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump, Biden set for weekend swing state sprint Mnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' MORE on trillions of dollars in previous aid, stressed the importance of bringing the White House back to the table if any new funding is to go out the door.

"We have a number of schools of thought: those who want us to put $3.4 trillion on the floor, then come down in negotiation from there. Those who say just put something on the floor," she said. "But what we want is to put something on the floor that will become law. And so that requires negotiation."

The unrest has bubbled over this week, following the House's return to Washington after a long summer recess. Leaders of the various moderate groups — the Blue Dogs, the New Democrat Coalition and the Problem Solvers Caucus — have all voiced concerns that the four months that have passed since the HEROES Act vote has created perceptions among voters that House Democrats have stopped working to address the accelerating crisis.

Pelosi emphasized Wednesday that Democrats have already slashed their demands for the next relief bill, from $3.4 trillion down to $2.4 trillion, only to see Republicans moving in the opposite direction.

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While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTop Senate GOP super PAC makes final .6M investment in Michigan Senate race On The Money: McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 | Lawmakers see better prospects for COVID deal after election Overnight Health Care: House Dem report blasts Trump coronavirus response | Regeneron halts trial of antibody drug in sickest hospitalized patients | McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 MORE (R-Ky.) had initially pushed a $1.1 trillion package, the bill he brought to the chamber floor last week featured only $650 billion in aid. Senate Democrats quickly defeated the measure.

"We have come down," Pelosi said. "But the needs of the American people — we can only go so far."

Amid the intracaucus squabble, Pelosi has won the strong backing of liberals, unions and powerful committee chairs, who are busy working to change certain timelines within the HEROES Act provisions to lower the cost of the overall bill without cutting actual benefits. Pelosi cautioned, however, that new needs have emerged since May and additional provisions will likely be added to the package.

"This has accelerated since then," she said. "We have additional needs for restaurants, airlines and the rest, and those things have to be taken into consideration as well."

The debate highlights the dilemma facing Pelosi and other party leaders as they try to thread the needle between energizing liberal voters and protecting vulnerable moderates heading into November's elections.

Pelosi is no stranger to that dance, and she downplayed the internal divisions as an impediment to an eventual bipartisan deal — if one is possible so close to the elections.

"Welcome to my world. I have a beautifully diverse caucus," she told MSNBC, adding, "I'm used to building consensus in my own caucus."