Lawmakers aim for COVID-19 relief deal this week
Congressional Democrats and Trump administration officials say they are aiming to have a deal on a fifth coronavirus package this week, in what would mark an escalation of the pace of the talks thus far.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters after a closed-door meeting on Tuesday that they were not yet close to a deal.
“We did try to agree to set a timeline,” Mnuchin said. “We’re going to try to reach an overall agreement, if we can get one, by the end of this week so that the legislation could then pass next week,” Mnuchin said.
Mnuchin added that they wanted to have an “understanding” by the end of the week.
The timeline comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has also indicated that she wants a deal this week.
Pelosi, during a call with House Democrats on Monday, assured the lawmakers that she and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are “determined” to get a deal and predicted they would do so as early as this week, according to a source on the call.
Pelosi added to CNN on Tuesday that she wants a deal this week.
“We agree that we want to have an agreement,” Pelosi told reporters. “Let’s engineer back from there as to what we have to do to get that done.”
Pelosi, Schumer, Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows met on Tuesday for the eighth time since last Monday as they try to craft an agreement on a fifth coronavirus package.
Schumer, after Tuesday’s meeting, said they were swapping offers and that both sides had made concessions, though he declined to say what those were.
“They made some concessions, which we appreciated. We made some concessions, which they appreciated. We’re still far away on a lot of the important issues,” Schumer told reporters.
Schumer added that “one sign of the progress is we are now exchanging far more details and paper with each other. They send us a bunch of paper, we send them a bunch of paper, and we each comment on it.”
The group is set to meet again on Wednesday and will hold a separate meeting with the postmaster general as Democrats push for more funding over concerns that the Postal Service could be swamped by absentee ballots in November.
But there are significant roadblocks to locking down a deal in a matter of days, and the ambitious timeline comes only hours after Republicans emerged from a closed-door lunch with Mnuchin and Meadows describing the negotiations as at an “impasse.”
“I think the secretary’s comment was he didn’t think they were any closer to a deal now than they were last week,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).
Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said, “It was actually just the same discussion we had last week. … No movement.”
“There was nothing other than they are far apart, and it will probably take some time to get worked out,” Braun added.
Mnuchin said that while they were closer to an agreement on some issues, “some significant issues” are still on the table.
Those include the total size of the package. House Democrats approved a $3 trillion bill, while Republicans have pressed for a $1 trillion package.
Pelosi told CNN on Tuesday that she wants a deal this week and would accept a $3.4 trillion bill.
Mnuchin flatly rejected that.
“Let me be clear: We’re not going anything close to $3.4 trillion,” Mnuchin said. “That’s just ridiculous.”
Mike Lillis contributed