House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke Wednesday morning but again failed to agree on the coronavirus stimulus.
The couple spoke by phone and had "productive" discussions of the language in aid proposals over the weekend, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a tweet. He added that "a major issue remains that the White House has no understanding of the need for a national strategic test plan" for Covid-19.
Pelosi and Mnuchin, the leading negotiators in the relief talks between the White House and Congress Democrats, plan to speak again Thursday. Mnuchin said Wednesday that he and Pelosi "had an extensive discussion on many topics".
"We are still making progress on certain issues, but we are still far apart on certain issues," he told the Milken Institute global conference.
Nancy Pelosi and Steven Mnuchin
The Treasury Secretary, who over the weekend called on Congress to give corporations access to a second paycheck protection program loan from unused funds of $ 130 billion, said the "all or nothing" approach to that Legislation is "not useful". Even when calling for immediate "targeted" help, Mnuchin admitted that it would be difficult "to do something and get it done before the election".
The negotiators have taken one final step to reach a business cycle agreement ahead of the 2020 elections. However, the chances of Congress passing new aid before November 3 have diminished as the Republican-held Senate pushes to vote on a tighter plan than either the White House or Democrats proposed.
While Trump broke off talks until after the election earlier this month, he reversed course as he faced a difficult offer for a second term in the White House. Pelosi, whose party in the House passed a $ 2.2 trillion relief bill, dismissed the White House's recent $ 1.8 trillion proposal as insufficient.
Congress hasn't passed new bailouts in months as the coronavirus spreads across the country and millions of Americans remain jobless after shutdowns designed to slow the outbreak.
While the overall cost of the Trump administration plan is similar to the price tag of the Democratic bill, larger disputes remain unresolved. Democrats have proposed $ 436 billion in aid to state and local governments that may have to cut essential services as they face higher costs and lower revenues during the pandemic. Mnuchin offered $ 300 billion for states and communities.
Trump, who signed his administration's proposal, again railed against state and local aid on Wednesday. He said he "wants to see the Democrats loosen up a bit" because "all they want to do is save their badly run cities and states".
The non-partisan National Governors Association has repeatedly asked Congress for an additional $ 500 billion. Mnuchin noted on Wednesday that governments firing employees such as firefighters would "have costs to the federal government in terms of unemployment, but also costs to the economy".
The Democrats' bill also reintroduces federal weekly unemployment insurance at $ 600 per week through January. The White House proposal would provide a weekly benefit of $ 400 through the third week of January.
Pelosi faced some pressure in her caucus to either address issues like unemployment insurance in a separate bill or to accept a smaller deal from the White House. In a tense interview on CNN Tuesday evening, the California Democrat said members who criticized her strategy had "no idea of the details" of the talks.
Senate majority Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, has seen criticism of the Senate's decision to push Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination as unemployed Americans await relief. When he announced the Senate's plans to vote on a limited bill after the chamber returned on Monday, he said lawmakers would have time to pass the auxiliary laws and approve Barrett before the election.
A lack of new relief could also hurt at-risk Republican incumbents as the GOP plans to hold its 53-47 Senate majority on election day.
Even if Pelosi and Mnuchin can reach an agreement that earns Democratic votes and Trump's signature, it could be difficult for them to convince the Senate GOP to support them.
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