To get a deal done on the next coronavirus relief package, Democrats say the Trump administration has to increase the budget. The administration says Democrats need to lower the price tag.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on Wednesday about a potential deal, the first time since talks stalled on Friday. While more progress can be made when conversations are happening than when they’re not, the two sides remain divided, indicating that a deal may never happen.
“An overture was made by Secretary Mnuchin to meet and he made clear that his televised comments from earlier today still stand: the White House is not budging from their position concerning the size and scope of a legislative package,” Pelosi said in a statement.
The House speaker said Democrats compromised and were willing to come down by $1 trillion if the other side came up by the same amount, putting the price tag around $2 trillion.
Pelosi told MSNBC’s Craig Melvin on Wednesday that the Democrats can’t resolve their differences with the administration because “we are miles apart.” One example of this divide is the issue of food. The Democrats included more than $60 billion for nutrition programs, including food banks, whereas Republicans have $240,000, Pelosi said.
Mnuchin offered a different narrative, saying in a statement of his own that Pelosi’s comments were “not an accurate reflection of our conversation.” He acknowledged the $2 trillion the democrats want, but said Pelosi “made clear” she wouldn’t continue negotiations unless the administration “agreed in advance to her proposal.”
Earlier in the day, he told Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo that the meeting on Friday showed Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were “just not willing to compromise.” Instead of doing an entire package, forcing the two sides to come to an agreement on issues where the chasm between them was wide, he advocated for passing bills for measures where they do agree.
“We agreed on money for schools, money for child care, money for small businesses, second payments on the paycheck protection program for businesses that have been particularly hard hit, more money for vaccines, hospitals, we even agreed to state and local aid just not the ridiculous trillion dollars that they wanted,” Mnuchin told Bartiromo.
Another area the two sides reportedly agree on is another round of economic impact payments. A measure that’s long been supported by President Donald Trump, Mnuchin told reporters on August 2 the next round would largely resemble the first. However, it would also likely expand eligibility for the additional $500 payments to include dependents of all ages and not just children under 17 years of age, as was the case with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
Pelosi’s also been supportive of another round of checks, but she isn’t keen on moving forward with relief if it’s done in pieces, telling the Associated Press at the end of July to “forget it.”
Newsweek reached out to Speaker Pelosi for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.
Footing the cost of the pandemic, combined with lost revenue with closed businesses, put state and local governments in precarious financial positions. Democrats want $915 billion, while Republicans initially proposed $150 billion.
The administration criticized Democrats’ proposal for being a “bailout” of poorly run cities and states and Mnuchin told Bartiromo they had no interest in allowing states to use the money toward pensions. However, he said they were willing to put another $150 billion on the table, bringing the total to $300 billion, and increase flexibility so the money could be used for lost revenue.
Pelosi told Melvin it was “no use” sitting in a room with the administration if they’re going to be saying “states should go bankrupt.” She called the fiscal soundness of states “essential to the strength of the economy.”
As far as a potential package goes, Mnuchin told Bartiromo he “can’t speculate” as to whether they’ll reach an agreement.