Pelosi-Mnuchin Stimulus Talks Come Down to the Wire

Pelosi-Mnuchin Stimulus Talks Come Down to the Wire

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Plus, the Senate votes to avert a shutdown
Wednesday, September 30, 2020

House Stimulus Vote Delayed as Pelosi-Mnuchin Talks Come Down to the Wire

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to reach an agreement on a coronavirus relief package Wednesday.

Following a roughly 90-minute meeting — the first time the pair had met in person in more than a month — Pelosi said negotiations will continue, and the House pushed off a scheduled final vote Wednesday evening on the slimmed-down, $2.2 trillion stimulus bill Democrats introduced earlier this week. The vote, now slated for Thursday, would be largely symbolic in the absence of an agreement with the White House, since the Democrat’s package has virtually no chance of being taken up by the Republican-controlled Senate.

"Today, Secretary Mnuchin and I had an extensive conversation and we found areas where we are seeking further clarification. Our conversations will continue," Pelosi said in a statement.

Mnuchin sounded cautiously optimistic after the meeting, saying the negotiators had "made a lot of progress over the last few days" and "we’re going to see where we end up" after more talks. In an interview with CNBC earlier in the day, Mnuchin said the White House was interested in a stimulus package similar to the $1.5 trillion bill put forth two weeks ago by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. However, there were no details about the offer Mnuchin presented to Pelosi in the meeting.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sounded a more pessimistic note Wednesday, telling reporters that a deal remained elusive. "We’re very, very far apart," he said.

Senate Votes to Avert Shutdown

Facing a midnight deadline to avoid a government shutdown, the Senate on Wednesday evening passed a stopgap spending bill that will keep the lights on until December 11. Passed by the House last week, the legislation is expected to head to President Trump’s desk later this evening.

A Few Health Care Highlights From a Debate Filled With Lowlights

A hot mess. A train wreck. A national embarrassment. Just plain annoying. It’s clear that the first presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden was painful to watch. But before you look to purge all memory of the disturbing debacle — and President Trump’s outlandish, hectoring performance won’t soon be forgotten — here’s a look at some of the little substance, on health care specifically, that got intermingled with the interruptions, insults and mockery.

Protections for those with preexisting conditions:
Biden used the first question of the night, about Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat, to say that the future of the Affordable Care Act is at stake.

The Trump administration is backing a challenge to the Obama health care law that will be heard by the court on November 10.

Biden said that the law’s protections for people with preexisting medical conditions could be wiped out and that there are 100 million people with pre-existing conditions. Trump disputed the number, but as Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation points out, 54 million non-elderly Americans have a pre-existing condition that made them uninsurable before the Affordable Care Act and as many as 133 million had a condition that could have led insurers to decline coverage, exclude coverage of the condition or charge significantly higher premiums.

Biden and "socialist medicine":
Trump accused Biden of pursuing "socialist medicine," trying to tie Biden to those in the Democratic Party who are pushing for a single-payer "Medicare for All" system. Biden, who does not support a single-payer system and is instead proposing a public option, pushed back. "The party is me. Right now, I am the Democratic party," he said.

When asked by moderator Chris Wallace whether his public option would, as Republicans and insurers argue, lead to the end of private insurance "and create a government takeover of health," Biden said the public option would be limited to low-income people who would be eligible for Medicaid but whose states have not expanded the program under the Affordable Care Act. The Democratic platform says that the public option would also be available to people who are offered coverage through their jobs, Modern Healthcare notes.

Trump’s missing health care plan:
Wallace said that the president has never issued a comprehensive plan to replace Obamacare. "Of course I have," Trump said. "The individual mandate. Excuse me. I got rid of the individual mandate, which was a big chunk of Obamacare."

Wallace pressed for more, and Trump touted his administration’s yet-to-be-implemented plans to lower drug prices. "Drug prices will be coming down 80 or 90%," he claimed. Trump also claimed he has brought down the price of insulin. "I’m getting it for so cheap it’s like water," he said.

The Trump administration has cut insulin costs for some seniors through a plan capping out-of-pocket costs at $35 a month, but as STAT’s Nicholas Florko explains, for most people, insulin still costs just as much as before.

Quote of the Day

"Last night’s debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues."

A statement from the Commission on Presidential Debates, following the chaotic first debate Tuesday between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. The CPD added that it "will be carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly."

A Deep Dive Into the K-Shaped Recovery

Digging into the data on the coronavirus economy, a team of reporters at The Washington Post found enormous variation in how the recession is playing out for different income groups.

"The economic collapse sparked by the pandemic is triggering the most unequal recession in modern U.S. history, delivering a mild setback for those at or near the top and a depression-like blow for those at the bottom," the reporters said Wednesday.

The analysis is loaded with detailed data and fascinating graphs, including this chart, which shows just how severe job losses have been for low-income workers compared to earlier recessions.

Read the full analysis here.

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