In a letter to House Democrats sent Saturday, Pelosi called the administration’s proposal presented on Friday “one step forward, two steps back” in their negotiations but said she would “remain hopeful” both sides could come to a deal.
And on Sunday, Pelosi told House Democrats, “we remain at an impasse” on stimulus negotiations until both sides were able to work out the total amount of funding to fight the pandemic and a COVID-19 testing plan, among other provisions.
The White House, on the other hand, seemed to both retreat from dealmaking while still expressing eagerness to strike one.
Trump said Sunday on Fox News “Republicans want to do it,” citing Pelosi as an obstacle. Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” Republicans would “go along with it” if a deal were struck despite Senate Republicans’ previous reluctance to spend too much on a relief deal.
Kudlow also said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin “may” move the administration’s position up from their current offer of $1.8 trillion in funds, though fewer Senate Republicans are likely to accept a deal the higher the price tag goes. Senate Republicans’ stimulus proposals have ranged from about $1.1 trillion in a July proposal to $300 billion in a “targeted” proposal blocked by Senate Democrats in mid-September.
Later Sunday, Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows penned a letter urging members of Congress to pass legislation to authorize the repurposing of unused funds from a loan forgiveness program.
“The all-or-nothing approach is an unacceptable response to the American people,” they wrote.
The back-and-forth over stimulus comes as many of the benefits previously approved by Congress have already run out. The $600 federal boost to unemployment benefits ran out in July, a loan forgiveness program for small businesses expired, and airlines face mass layoffs and furloughs after their billions of dollars in federal payroll assistance expired on Oct. 1. Congress has not passed a comprehensive relief package since March.
Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari warned in a Sunday interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” of a “grinding, very slow recovery with thousands of small businesses around the country going bankrupt” without “continued assistance” from lawmakers.
The White House’s latest $1.8 trillion offer is still smaller than the $2.2 trillion Democrats most recently offered and which Trump had rejected last Tuesday. Trump said Tuesday he wanted to postpone any negotiations until after the November election, but since then, he has reversed course, pushing for standalone bills to send out stimulus checks and provide relief to airlines and reopening discussions over a comprehensive stimulus plan.
Trump seemed to undercut his administration’s negotiation Friday afternoon, telling Rush Limbaugh in an interview, “I would like to see a bigger stimulus package frankly than either the Democrats or the Republicans are offering.”
White House spokesperson Alyssa Farah told reporters later Friday the administration wants to “stay below 2 trillion.”
Any negotiated deal, however, will have to pass through the Republican-controlled Senate, where members have expressed hesitancy at spending trillions of dollars on COVID-19 relief.
At an event in Kentucky last Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was “unlikely” a stimulus deal would occur before the election.
Although House Democratic leadership has rejected the latest White House proposal, it appears some progressives are eager for a deal. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., a Congressional Progressive Caucus member, tweeted Sunday $1.8 trillion was already a “significant” sum, writing on Twitter, “Make a deal & put the ball in McConnell court.”