House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said negotiators were “just about there” on the issue of funding testing and tracing programs for the coronavirus, a key provision in the relief bill she is trying to hash out with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
But numerous other provisions are still unsettled, including the crucial issues of aid to state and local governments, liability protections for businesses and funding for schools, and time is quickly running out to get a bill ready before Election Day.
Pelosi said she still holds out hope that a bill can come together quickly. “It's only about time,” she told reporters in the Capitol. “I think it is in range for us to pass it before the election. But it's not up to me to decide what the Senate does.”
Pelosi also warned that even if negotiators can agree on all the details soon, the legislative process will take time to complete. “If we can resolve some of these things in the next few days, it’ll take a while to write the bill,” she said.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow highlighted the difficult road ahead. “There are still significant policy differences between the two teams,” he said, adding that Democrats need to amend their offer. “The clock is ticking,” Kudlow said.
Growing frustration for Senate Republicans: Some GOP senators are concerned that Mnuchin is giving too much away in his negotiations with Pelosi, The Washington Post’s Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report. The White House offer is now close to $1.9 trillion, a figure that many Republicans have said they would refuse to support. Mnuchin has also reportedly agreed to $300 billion in assistance for state and local governments, another problem for many on the right.
“He negotiates harder with his own side than he does with her. Folks over here are sick of it,” one Republican aide told the Post. Mnuchin “gives and gives and gives and gets nothing in return,” the aide added.
While some Republicans say they might support the bill — Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) spoke favorably about it Thursday — it’s hard to imagine it passing a GOP-controlled Senate. “There are not 13 votes for this pile of crap Mnuchin is capitulating on,” a Republican aide said.
Questions about the politics: Conservative activists raised serious questions about the way Republicans were approaching the relief bill. Former senator and Heritage Foundation leader Jim DeMint said some GOP lawmakers don’t trust the Treasury secretary. “They don’t feel like [Mnuchin] is negotiating for them, and certainly not for conservatives,” DeMint said. “The consensus is he’s trying to get something done. And to get something done with Nancy Pelosi will require something most of us will not feel good about.”
Republican political strategist Liam Donovan complained to the Post that there are “zero policy wins” for the GOP in the still-developing bill.
At the same time, Republicans could suffer politically if they are seen resisting a relief bill that would provide much-needed assistance to millions of Americans. “Except for a handful from the neo-austerity caucus among Senate Republicans, everybody else would see the boost from it, and they would get credit for helping people in the middle of a crisis,” said Tony Fratto, a former George W. Bush administration official. “It’s bad economics but also just really dumb politics.”
Pelosi was happy to highlight the confusion on the Republican side of the aisle. “I do believe that both sides want to reach an agreement. I can't answer to the disarray on the Senate side,” she said.
“It's not up to me to psych out Mitch McConnell,” she added. “It's about the president of the United States engaging in a discussion, but it's up to him to deliver what can happen on the Senate side.”