Latest Mnuchin-Pelosi call produces ‘encouraging news on testing’ for stimulus package

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, said Saturday that there has been some “encouraging news on testing” following the Speaker’s call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discuss the details on a possible fifth coronavirus relief package. 

The call is the latest development in the back-and-forth stimulus negotiations that have appeared to grind to a halt as the White House has thus far been unable to hammer out a deal with congressional leadership. 

The news comes as President Trump and his administration are pushing to pass a stimulus bill just weeks before the Nov. 3 election. Earlier this month, Trump encouraged Congress to “go big or go home” on a coronavirus stimulus package after he had called off negotiations altogether in a tweet. 

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and other top Republicans have balked at stimulus offers of more than $1 trillion. 

Hamill tweeted the news late Saturday evening, saying that the conversation between Pelosi and Mnuchin lasted about an hour. 

“While there was some encouraging news on testing, there remains work to do to ensure there is a comprehensive testing plan that includes contact tracing and additional measures to address the virus’ disproportionate impact on communities of color,” he wrote. 

Hammill added that there are still “additional differences as we go provision by provision that must be addressed in a comprehensive manner in the next 48 hours.” 

“Decisions must be made by the White House in order to demonstrate that the Administration is serious about reaching a bipartisan agreement that provides for Americans with the greatest needs during the pandemic,” he continued.

McConnell announced Saturday afternoon that the Senate will vote on a $500 billion GOP coronavirus relief bill on Wednesday. 

The Senate bill is less than a third of the size of the $1.8 trillion offer from the White House and is much less than the $2.2 trillion package passed by congressional Democrats earlier this month.  

McConnell, speaking in Kentucky this week, expressed doubt that a package between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion could be achieved, adding that it would need support from Senate Republicans even if Pelosi was able to reach a deal with the Trump administration. 

“I don’t think so. That’s where the administration is willing to go. My members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go,” McConnell said. 

However, McConnell added that the Senate would “consider” a deal reached between the White House and Democrats.

“If Speaker Pelosi ever lets the House reach a bipartisan agreement with the Administration, the Senate would of course consider it. But Americans need help now,” he said.

The Senate bill detailed by McConnell Saturday includes a federal unemployment benefit and another round of small-business assistance under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). 

In a prerecorded interview on “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren” set to air Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Congress should go “big and smart” on the next coronavirus relief package. 

The senator added that while he thinks more money is needed, he does not agree with the policy components of the House proposal. 

“The $2.2 trillion coming out of the House has a mandate for ballot harvesting. What’s that got to do COVID?” Graham said. “And the $1,200 payment, which I support, doesn’t require a Social Security number to get it, so a lot of the money would go to illegal immigrants.”

“There are some Republicans who don’t want to spend any more,” Graham added. “I think we need more money, but we don’t need policy provisions like the House has.” 

Tags coronavirus covid-19 coronavirus stimulus package Donald Trump House Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Senate Steve Mnuchin Steven Mnuchin

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