Coronavirus Relief Talks Still ‘Miles Apart’

Coronavirus Relief Talks Still ‘Miles Apart’

Sipa USA

Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that they had turned down an overture from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for the two sides negotiating a stalled coronavirus relief package to resume talks. The White House, Democrats said, isn’t budging from its demands for a smaller aid package.

"We have made clear to the Administration that we are willing to come down $1 trillion if they will come up $1 trillion," the Democratic leaders said in a joint statement. "However, it is clear that the Administration still does not grasp the magnitude of the problems that American families are facing. We have again made clear to the Administration that we are willing to resume negotiations once they start to take this process seriously."

Mnuchin said Pelosi’s statement was "not an accurate reflection of our conversation," adding that Pelosi was "unwilling to meet to continue negotiations unless we agreed in advance to her proposal, costing at least $2 trillion."

Mnuchin told Fox Business that Congress could pass a relief plan costing just over $1 trillion now and deal with remaining issues later. "Our view is let’s spend a little over a trillion dollars on areas of the economy that are going to be very impactful now that we can agree on," Mnuchin said, adding that lawmakers could come back for a sixth relief bill later in the year or in January.

"The Administration is willing to move forward with legislation that allows for substantial funds for schools, child care, food, vaccines, hospitals, PPP for small businesses, rental assistance, broadband, airports, state and local government assistance, and liability protection for universities, schools, and businesses," he said in a statement later in the day. "The Democrats have no interest in negotiating."

Pelosi, however, said that a deal needs to get done now and stimulus measures can’t wait. Asked if she thinks Congress can wait until September, when coronavirus relief measures could become part of deadline-driven talks on funding needed to avoid a government shutdown, Pelosi told reporters: "I hope not, no. People will die."

Still, Pelosi made clear Wednesday she doesn’t see any point to negotiating if the White House holds fast to certain positions. "When commentators say to me: why can't you resolve your differences? Because we're miles apart," she told MSNBC earlier in the day, again urging Republicans to meet in the middle. "Until they're ready to do that, it's no use sitting in a room and let them tell us that states should go bankrupt."

Mnuchin indicated that the differences on aid to state and local governments — Democrats are pushing for $915 billion, while Republicans have offered $150 billion — are rooted in very different outlooks for the pandemic.

"I think the issue is the way the Democrats come up with this trillion dollars is they look at the next two years and they project losses," he said, according to The Hill. "They don't think the economy is going to open up — we do. And they look at some of their most problematic states, which had issues before all of this."

The bottom line:
"The high-stakes stalemate now appears likely to drag on for weeks, or even into September," Politico reports, citing lawmakers and aides in both parties.