Stimulus Talks Resume as Pelosi Trims Coronavirus Bill to $2.2 Trillion

Stimulus Talks Resume as Pelosi Trims Coronavirus Bill to $2.2 Trillion

Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have resumed talks on a coronavirus relief bill after Democrats introduced a slimmed-down, $2.2 billion bill Monday evening.

Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke Monday evening and then discussed the new 2,152-page bill Tuesday morning, with Pelosi saying the conversation was "positive." The pair are scheduled to speak again Wednesday, when Mnuchin is expected to provide a detailed response to the Democratic proposal.

“We’re in a negotiation, and hopefully we will come to a bipartisan agreement that will remove all doubt that the legislation will pass and be signed by the president,” Pelosi told MSNBC Tuesday.

What’s in the bill. The bill is basically a reduced version of the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act the House passed in May. Pelosi said Tuesday that the bill addresses all of the issues Democrats say are most important, including aid for state and local governments and additional unemployment assistance, but on a shorter timeline to lower the cost by more than $1 trillion. “When we reduced it, we didn’t take out priorities,” she said. “We just reduced the timeline as to how long those benefits would last.”

Specific provisions include:

  • $600 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits, lasting through January,
  • another round of $1,200 stimulus payments,
  • $436 billion for state and local governments,
  • $225 billion for schools,
  • $75 billion for coronavirus testing and tracing programs,
  • $57 billion for childcare,
  • $25 billion to maintain payrolls in the airline industry,
  • $10 billion for food aid,
  • an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program to aid small businesses.

Can it pass? Lawmakers are trying one last time to negotiate a relief package before the rapidly approaching election, but Pelosi’s smaller bill will still be a tough sell for some Republicans. Even with Pelosi knocking $1.2 trillion off her initial proposal, the two sides are still hundreds of billions of dollars apart. Less than three weeks ago, the Republican-controlled Senate was unable to pass a $500 billion relief bill, and despite President Trump’s call for “much higher numbers” in the effort, there’s no sense that many minds have changed in the upper chamber. Still, with Mnuchin reportedly open to a package worth as much as $1.5 trillion, there is some hope that an agreement could be reached.

Time is running out. The House is expected to leave town by the end of the week, leaving very little time to negotiate such a massive bill. “If no agreement seems likely,” Politico Playbook said Tuesday, “Pelosi and House Democratic leaders will hold a vote on their own $2.2 trillion bill as soon as Wednesday and then go home, guaranteeing that Congress won’t send more help until after Election Day.”