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Pelosi blasts Trump for not agreeing to testing strategy
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday blasted the Trump administration for declining to sign on to Democrats' plan for a COVID-19 testing strategy, despite earlier public statements from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicating that there was an agreement.
"Today, we are waiting for an important response on several concerns, including on action to crush the virus. Ten days after Secretary Mnuchin went on CNBC to declare that he was accepting our testing plan, the Administration still refuses to do so," Pelosi wrote.
Pelosi and Mnuchin have been negotiating for weeks on a COVID-19 relief package that has included discussion of another round of stimulus checks to individuals, renewed enhanced unemployment insurance, tax credits and funds for the airline industry, in addition to a testing plan.
House Democrats have called for $75 billion for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing as part of their relief proposal. Earlier this month, Mnuchin said that he had largely agreed to Pelosi's demand for a national testing strategy with some minor changes.
"I think, quite frankly, we won't need to spend all that money, but we're happy to take the money," Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC at the time.
But more than a week later, what appeared to be progress in the negotiations that have dragged on since July has not yet yielded an agreement.
"Unless we have a national plan for testing, tracing, treatment, mask-wearing, social distancing and other science-based steps to crush the virus and combat the disparities facing communities of color, we cannot safely reopen our schools and economy. In all of our legislation, we have stressed the importance of testing, but the Administration has never followed through. The Republicans' continued surrender to the virus - particularly amid the recent wave of cases - is official malfeasance," Pelosi wrote in Monday's letter.
The nation appears to be headed toward a third spike in coronavirus cases across the country.
On Sunday, the U.S. set a new record for average cases per day over a seven-day period with 68,954. The previous record for a seven-day average was 66,844 and came the week ending July 23.
President Trump has repeatedly blamed rising case numbers on increased testing. But hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are also rising, indicating that the increase in cases is not simply because of more testing.
"Cases up because we TEST, TEST, TEST. A Fake News Media Conspiracy. Many young people who heal very fast. 99.9%. Corrupt Media conspiracy at all time high. On November 4th., topic will totally change. VOTE!" Trump tweeted on Monday morning.
Pelosi blasted remarks on Sunday from White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who said that the U.S. is "not going to control" the pandemic.
"So here's what we have to do. We're not going to control the pandemic. We are gonna control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations," Meadows said during an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," adding that COVID-19 is "a contagious virus just like the flu."
A number of aides to Vice President Pence, who chairs the White House coronavirus task force, tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days, following an outbreak this month among other White House aides, Trump and first lady Melania Trump.
"That attitude clearly explains why the White House has not embraced the science-based path to crush the virus, which is contained in the Heroes Act," Pelosi wrote, referring to the name of House Democrats' COVID-19 relief bill.
With only eight days left before Election Day, it appears increasingly unlikely that the two sides will reach an agreement before then or that Congress will take up a bill before the lame-duck session.
The Senate is scheduled to adjourn until November after a vote later Monday to confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. The House, meanwhile, has been out of session since early October and isn't scheduled to return until Nov. 16.