Stalled coronavirus stimulus talks may be starting up again on Capitol Hill. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) both said Thursday that they have agreed to revive their negotiations on another coronavirus relief bill.
“The president and I want more support,” Mnuchin told a hearing of the Senate Banking Committee. “I've probably spoken to Speaker Pelosi 15 or 20 times in the last few days on the CR, and we've agreed to continue to have discussions about the CARES Act.”
Pelosi told reporters that she hoped to soon be back at the negotiating table.
The two sides remain far apart, with Democrats pressing for a larger and broader package that would renew enhanced unemployment benefits, provide aid to state and local governments and deliver another round of direct payments to households, among other things.
The White House and Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have objected to the state aid and pushed for a narrower, more targeted approach. “Let's pass things that we agree on quickly, and we can always come back and do more,” Mnuchin said Thursday, according to The Hill. “It's less of the issue of what the absolute number is.”
Senate Republicans previously failed to come together behind a $1 trillion proposal, but they did support a smaller plan totaling some $650 billion. That package was blocked by Democrats who said was it insufficient.
Democrats prepare a new $2.4 trillion plan: The Democratic-led House passed a $3.4 trillion package in May, but party leaders have more recently sought a compromise deal worth around $2.2 trillion. Now, as she seeks to restart talks, Pelosi has reportedly instructed House committee chairs to prepare another version of their package as a basis for renewed negotiations — or as a way for Democrats to show they are acting to address the crisis even if talks with the White House don’t go anywhere. Pelosi, who has insisted on a comprehensive deal, has faced increasing pressure from centrists in her caucus to take up additional coronavirus relief measures, even narrower ones, ahead of November’s elections.
The House could vote on the new plan next week, even without GOP support, Politico reports.
The new package is expected to cost $2.4 trillion. Politico’s Heather Caygle, John Bresnahan and Sarah Ferris provide more details:
“The legislation is expected to contain popular provisions from the massive $3.4 trillion HEROES Act the House passed in May, including state and local funding and expanded unemployment benefits but likely for a shorter time frame than originally proposed, according to Democrats involved.”
The package will reportedly also include additional funding for airlines, restaurants and other areas of need that have developed in recent months.
Economy at risk: The economy shows signs of needing more support (see more below) and leading economists warn that the U.S. is at risk of repeating a costly mistake made after the Great Recession by cutting off government aid too quickly, Ben Casselman and Jeanna Smialek write in The New York Times on Thursday. “The lesson from the last crisis is that we had elevated unemployment for years, and it was a slow grind to work that down,” Robert S. Kaplan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, told the Times. “We have a chance here, if we act quickly, to mitigate the lasting damage that we saw.”
The bottom line: The two sides show no signs they’ve moved any closer to clinching a deal. As Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said: “There’s always a chance around here, as you know, but it is slim.”