Second stimulus checks: White House less optimistic than Pelosi on pre-election deal

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to push positivity about reaching a compromise on a coronavirus relief deal before the election, the White House is far less optimistic, according to the Washington Post.

On Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said significant differences remain between Republican and Democratic leadership and noted Pelosi had “dug in.”

Meanwhile, the Democrat’s top negotiator said a bill could be passed before Election Day if President Donald Trump “wants to” approve it.

“The biggest step forward… in the negotiations is, I think they’re about to embrace the science in a substantial way,” Pelosi told MSNBC. “We put pen to paper… we are writing the bill, and hopefully we will be able to resolve it… we could do that before the election if the president wants to.”

A deal before Nov. 3 would likely result in a new round of stimulus checks before the end of 2020 in addition to money for unemployment benefits, schools, and state and local governments.

During Thursday night’s debate, Trump blamed Pelosi for the fact no deal has been reached saying she doesn’t want to do anything that would help him.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s Republican leader, has told his fellow Republicans that he warned the White House against striking a trillion-dollar relief deal with Pelosi before the Nov. 3 election.

Democratic candidate Joe Biden raised his voice as he reminded viewers of Thursday’s presidential debate that the Democratic-controlled House passed a relief bill months ago. He asked Trump why he isn’t talking to his “Republican friends” about a deal.

While McConnell and Trump appear to be moving in different directions on a relief package, Pelosi continues to negotiate a deal with Trump’s emissary, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mnuchin and Pelosi continue to signal progress even as Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said Pelosi is slow-walking.

“We haven’t seen a lot of action from Speaker Pelosi,” Meadows said. “Most of the progress we’ve made have been concessions that the president has made.”

At issue is a huge virus relief bill that would send another $1,200 direct payment to most Americans, restart bonus unemployment benefits, fund additional testing and vaccines, provide aid to schools and allocate money to states and local governments, a Democratic priority.

A $1.8 trillion rescue plan in March passed virtually unanimously. The Pelosi-pushed package today is even larger but has run into resolute opposition from Republicans. Taking care of the issue would clear the decks for a fresh start on the congressional agenda next year.

Senate Democrats blocked a Senate GOP plan that McConnell brought to a vote Wednesday. The measure contained more than $100 billion for schools, a $300 per week supplemental unemployment insurance benefit, and more subsidies for businesses especially hard hit by pandemic-related downturns and closures. It does not include the $1,200 direct payments that are so important to Trump.

The White House has said it’s gone as high as $1.9 trillion to meet Pelosi’s demand for a $2.2 trillion deal.

Trump says that if he wins reelection, aid will flow immediately. If he loses, it’s unclear whether his enthusiasm for delivering it will be as strong.

“I’m never very optimistic about the lame duck and I’ve never been surprised,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. “You don’t get near as much done as you think you’re going to get done.”

Those Republicans willing to speculate about a Trump loss in two weeks say not to expect much, either.

“I think Democrats would want to wait until the new president is sworn in and do it then and I think Republicans probably would say … the economy’s taking care of it,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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