House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows resumed talks on a coronavirus relief package on Thursday, but their 25-minute afternoon phone call failed to produce any progress in breaking a weeks-long impasse.
Pelosi said afterward that she told Meadows Democrats would be willing to meet halfway, splitting the difference between their $3.4 trillion proposal and the White House’s offer of about $1 trillion.
“We have said again and again that we’re willing to meet them in the middle — $2.2 trillion. When they’re willing to do that, we’ll be willing to discuss the particulars,” Pelosi told reporters. In a statement released after the call, Pelosi said the funding Democrats are insisting on would help combat the coronavirus and boost the economy.
“This conversation made clear that the White House continues to disregard the needs of the American people as the coronavirus crisis devastates lives and livelihoods,” she said. “The Administration’s continued failure to acknowledge the funding levels that experts, scientists and the American people know is needed leaves our nation at a tragic impasse.”
Earlier in the day, Pelosi told reporters that Democrats aren’t willing to go any lower. “We’re not budging,” she said.
McConnell says the country needs another coronavirus bill: “We need another one, the country needs another one,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly said during a visit to a hospital in Pikeville, Kentucky.
The Associated Press’s Lisa Mascaro reports that “McConnell faces his own difficulties because many, if not most, GOP senators appear satisfied, for now, that there remains enough existing aid available and new money is not needed. The split in his ranks gives Pelosi an upper hand in talks because she has been able to bring most of her Democrats on board with her proposals.”
The bottom line: Congress remains on recess until September and Meadows said this week he’s “not optimistic” about reaching a deal before the end of next month, when a relief package could be combined with talks on must-pass funding to prevent a government shutdown. Thursday’s talks did nothing to change that.