Pelosi hopeful COVID-19 relief talks resume ‘soon’

Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hinted Thursday that the bipartisan talks between Democrats and the White House will resume in short order.

“We’ll be hopefully soon to the table with them,” she told reporters in the Capitol.

Pelosi then suggested that Democrats will be introducing a proposal outlining the party’s spending priorities, saying leaders will be “very soon showing you where our money would be spent.”

Over the summer, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) had huddled repeatedly with the administration’s top negotiators, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, in search of another emergency aid package to address the health and economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

But those talks broke down on Aug. 7. And while Pelosi and Mnuchin have spoken frequently by phone, the focus has primarily been on other issues, including the effort to fund the government and avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

On Tuesday, the sides reached a deal on a continuing resolution to fund the government into December, creating some space to shift the focus back to efforts to break the impasse on coronavirus stimulus.

Yet the sides remain trillions of dollars apart. And with the House scheduled to leave Washington at the end of next week, moderate Democrats are increasingly urging party leaders to bring a vote on some form of COVID-19 relief before then, even absent a bipartisan deal — a strategy Pelosi has resisted.

Democrats had passed a massive, $3.4 trillion aid package, the HEROES Act, in May, featuring a new infusion of funding for states, coronavirus testing, unemployment benefits, food stamps and the Postal Service, among a host of other targets. Since then, Pelosi has dropped the demand to $2.2 trillion, but Republican leaders in the Senate and White House have agreed to only half that number.

Pelosi on Thursday emphasized that, with U.S. coronavirus deaths now topping 200,000 and millions of people still out of work, the problem has only grown worse since the talks deteriorated in August. That means Democrats will be seeking money for additional programs, she said, singling out restaurants, the airlines and schools as a particular focus.

“Some of the needs in terms of the coronavirus are increasing … so we’re going to even need more money, or else we’re going to have to cut some more things down further to stay [at $2.2 trillion],” she said. “But I’m eager to hear what [the White House negotiators] have to say when they come.”

Others are not so optimistic. Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), senior Democrat on the Small Business Committee, said Republicans have overestimated the strength of the economy, sapping their desire to act on another stimulus bill before the Nov. 3 elections.

“I don’t think we’re going to get it done,” he told reporters Thursday in the Capitol.

Tags Ben Cardin Charles Schumer COVID-19 Mark Meadows Nancy Pelosi Relief Steven Mnuchin

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