House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated Thursday that Democrats will keep pressing for a coronavirus relief package of at least $2.2 trillion.
“It's hard to see how we can go any lower when you only have greater needs," she told reporters.
Pelosi’s comments come after President Trump on Wednesday urged Republicans to go for “much higher numbers” in a stimulus deal, including another round of direct payments to individual Americans. Trump also expressed some support for a $1.5 trillion package proposed this week by a bipartisan group of centrist House members called the Problem Solvers Caucus.
“I’d like to see the larger number,” Trump said at a White House news conference Wednesday evening. “Yeah, I would like to see it. There are some things I disagree with, but I’m sure they can be negotiated.”
The Problem Solvers proposal was largely rejected on Capitol Hill, with Republicans saying it cost too much and Democratic leaders saying it didn’t go far enough. Still, after weeks of deadlock in negotiations, increasing pressure from rank-and-file Democrats combined with the new Problem Solvers plan and Trump’s comments had sparked some renewed optimism that a deal might still be possible before lawmakers depart for the November elections.
Pelosi said Democrats have shown they are open to compromise, dropping their demands by more than $1 trillion from a $3.4 trillion package passed by the House in May. "We asked them to go up $1 trillion, instead they went down, not recognizing the need," she said, adding, “Why can't we spend what it takes to shore up the middle class in our country?"
But White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Pelosi’s position is “an ultimatum,” not a negotiation. "Based on conversations with some Democrat House members yesterday, I'm not optimistic Speaker Pelosi is going to see this as an opportunity to actually have meaningful conversations,” Meadows told reporters Thursday, according to Roll Call.
The bottom line: Nothing much has really changed here. The two sides are still about $1 trillion apart.