Pelosi, eyeing big COVID-19 deal in lame duck, wants ‘clean slate’ for Biden in 2021

Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that Democrats want to clean the slate of coronavirus aid this year, empowering a potential President Joe Biden to move quickly on other party priorities in 2021.

Biden and his Democratic allies in Congress have outlined ambitious legislative plans for next year, including efforts to bolster the nation’s infrastructure, lower prescription drug costs, tackle climate change and reform the campaign finance system. 

Confident in a Biden victory, Pelosi said she wants to help jumpstart that agenda by moving another massive coronavirus package before year’s end.

“We have plenty of work to do in the Joe Biden administration,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “We’ll be working between the White House and the Congress to get those jobs done, so we want to have as clean a slate as possible going into January.” 

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have hit a wall in their talks over another round of emergency coronavirus relief, all but abandoning the negotiations before Election Day and leaving the fate of another federal intervention to the lame-duck session — or beyond.

Pelosi warned Thursday that she won’t accept “a small bill” that lends huge tax cuts to the wealthy, as included in the CARES Act, without providing a good dose of help for struggling families, small businesses, health care providers and unemployed workers. Pelosi has held firm to her demand for a $2.2 trillion package, while the White House has come as high as $1.9 trillion.

“We’re not going to go to anything like Mitch McConnell had,” she said, referring to a $500 billion package backed by the Senate’s Republican leader. “People are hungry. People are on the verge of eviction. People need money in their pocket. We have enormous challenges there.” 

Still, President Trump has vowed to move post-election to enact “the best stimulus package you’ve ever seen.” And Pelosi is already urging Mnuchin to restart the talks that might lead to a bipartisan deal next month. 

“Why would we be talking to them if we didn’t want a bill?” she said. 

The Speaker also took a shot at the president for taking a victory lap following a historic economic rebound in the third quarter. Noting that the boost did not compensate for losses earlier in the year, she said it was federal stimulus spending, not Trump’s agenda, that spurred the recovery. 

“The Cares Act deserves credit for that,” she said. 

“It’s as if … we’d lost $100 in the second quarter, and now you’re making up $65. Glory Hallelujah,” she added. “No. And if we don’t pass [another] recovery bill … we will face dire circumstances.”

Tags Donald Trump Joe Biden Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Steven Mnuchin

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