Pelosi Plays Hardball as Coronavirus Stimulus Talks Resume

Pelosi Plays Hardball as Coronavirus Stimulus Talks Resume

Lenin Nolly/Sipa USA

You could get whiplash following the talks on a coronavirus relief package. 

Just two days after President Trump said he instructed his representatives to halt negotiations, the talks are apparently on again.

In a morning interview with the Fox Business Network, Trump said the two sides had resumed discussions. “I shut down talks two days ago because they weren’t working out. Now they are starting to work out. We’re starting to have some very productive talks,” he said, adding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants another stimulus bill, too, “because it’s so good for our country. We really need it.”

What Trump said: “We’re talking about airlines and we’re talking about a bigger deal than airlines. We’re talking about a deal with $1,200 per person, we’re talking about other things. But it’s not anybody’s fault, they were trying to get things, and we were trying to get things and it wasn’t going anywhere. I shut it down. I don’t want to play games. And then we reopened, and I see the markets are doing well, but I think we have a really good chance of doing something."

Pelosi plays hardball: The speaker confirmed that talks were ongoing. “We’re at the table. We want to continue the conversation. We’ve made some progress. We’re exchanging language. So we’ll see how we connect,” she said.

But she also slammed Trump for walking away from talks earlier, and she shot down the idea of a standalone bill to aid airlines and industry workers facing furloughs.

Pelosi last week asked airlines to delay furloughing thousands of workers, suggesting that Congress would either enact a standalone aid bill for the industry or deliver payroll support as part of a comprehensive deal. After Republicans on Friday blocked a standalone bill from House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Pelosi signaled this week she was still open to providing aid to airlines. But after some Democrats reportedly questioned why only airlines should get help, Pelosi staked out a more hardline position at her Thursday news conference.

“There is no standalone bill without a bigger bill,” she said, suggesting that airline relief could be part of a larger package or in addition to it.

McConnell skeptical: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who earlier in the week backed Trump’s decision to walk away from talks, said Thursday that another relief package is needed — but that the upcoming elections make reaching a deal more difficult.

“There’s no question that the proximity to the election has made this much more challenging,” McConnell told a press conference in Erlanger, Kentucky. “We do agree that another rescue package is needed. We have vast differences about how much we should spend.”

He added that Pelosi “insists on an outrageous amount of money.”

Can a deal get done? Talks may be back on, but the two sides remain split over a number of issues. Pelosi, for example, highlighted Democrats’ insistence on language preventing Trump from diverting funds provided for a national coronavirus testing-and-tracing strategy. With the election just 26 days away, there isn’t much time to resolve some significant differences. Given the challenges, the Trump administration and congressional Republicans have discussed putting forth a new package of their own, which could include $1,200 stimulus checks, aid for small businesses and payroll support for airlines, according to The Washington Post.

The bottom line: For now, McConnell may have summed it up best when he said Thursday: “The discussion from day to day can be confusing for all of us to follow.”