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Pelosi, citing 'leverage' over Trump, holds strong to $2.2T in COVID-19 aid

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Defense: Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate l First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot l Israeli troops attack Gaza Strip Hillicon Valley: Colonial pipeline is back online, but concerns remain | Uber, Lyft struggle with driver supply | Apple cuts controversial hire Ocasio-Cortez on Taylor Greene: 'These are the kinds of people that I threw out of bars all the time' MORE (D-Calif.) on Tuesday shot down entreaties from some Democrats to cut a $1.8 trillion deal with the White House on coronavirus relief, arguing that President TrumpDonald TrumpProject Veritas surveilled government officials to expose anti-Trump sentiments: report Cheney: Fox News has 'a particular obligation' to refute election fraud claims The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? MORE's pleas for Congress to "go big" have given her leverage to hold out for more aid. 

"I appreciate the, shall we say, a couple people saying, ‘Take it, take it, take it,’" Pelosi said in a phone conference with Democrats, according to source on the call. "Take it? Take it? Even the president is saying, ‘Go big or go home.’"

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinDemocrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer Yellen provides signature for paper currency Biden's name will not appear on stimulus checks, White House says MORE have been in near-daily talks in search of an elusive stimulus agreement, even as the prospect of a deal before the Nov. 3 elections has grown dimmer by the day.

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Mnuchin last week had offered a $1.8 trillion package, up from an earlier proposal of $1.6 trillion, prompting a growing number of House Democrats to urge the Speaker to come down from her $2.2 trillion proposal, which the House approved on Oct. 1. That figure was already a reduction from the Democrats' $3.4 trillion HEROES Act, passed by the House in May.  

Most of those pleas have come from the Democrats' moderate wing, particularly from vulnerable lawmakers facing tough reelections next month. Yet even a few liberals have emerged in recent days to press Pelosi to accept the White House's latest offer. 

"Dems can’t wait for the perfect deal," Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaSenate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech GOP downplays Jan. 6 violence: Like a 'normal tourist visit' House conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill MORE (D-Calif.), a prominent member of the Progressive Caucus, tweeted Tuesday. "We have a moral obligation to get folks relief, now."

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Yet Trump has fueled the notion that a larger relief package is both preferable and possible this month, urging Congress multiple times in recent days to seek a package even larger than both parties have proposed. 

"STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!" he tweeted Tuesday morning.

That message runs counter to the statements coming from Republicans on Capitol Hill, particularly in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Biden, Senate GOP take step toward infrastructure deal as other plans hit speed bumps Senate GOP to give Biden infrastructure counteroffer next week Masks shed at White House; McConnell: 'Free at last' MORE (R-Ky.) had introduced a $1.1 trillion package last month, only to face a revolt from conservatives opposed to a figure they deemed far too high. In response, McConnell brought a much smaller $300 billion package to the floor, where it was promptly blocked by Democrats.

McConnell on Tuesday announced that the Senate will vote next week on a "targeted" coronavirus stimulus, including new funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) providing relief to small businesses struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic.

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"The American people need Democrats to stop blocking bipartisan funding and let us replenish the PPP before more Americans lose their jobs needlessly,” McConnell said in a statement.

Trump, who has largely remained on the sidelines of the Pelosi-Mnuchin talks, quickly undermined McConnell's piecemeal approach in urging Congress to tackle a larger deal.

The president is also trailing Joe BidenJoe BidenFauci says school should be open 'full blast' five days a week in the fall Overnight Defense: Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate l First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot l Israeli troops attack Gaza Strip Immigration experts say GOP senators questioned DHS secretary with misleading chart MORE in the polls, and seems increasingly eager to secure a big legislative victory before Nov. 3.

Against that backdrop, Pelosi seems to smell blood. While expressing hope that an agreement is still possible, she's holding firm to her $2.2 trillion demand. 

"We really need to have an agreement, but we cannot have an agreement by just folding," she told her caucus. "I don’t think our leverage has ever been greater than it is now.”