House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called on the Trump administration to reconcile remaining disputes on coronavirus stimulus legislation within 48 hours as lawmakers attempt to pass a bill before the 2020 election.
Pelosi set the 48-hour deadline on negotiations after speaking with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday night for more than an hour. They agreed to speak again on Monday.
In an interview on ABC News on Sunday, Pelosi said the deadline has to do with lawmakers’ ability to get a deal done before the Nov. 3 election, which is just over two weeks away. The speaker said she’s optimistic about negotiations but that the outcome ultimately depends on the White House.
“The 48 only relates to if we want to get it done before the election, which we do,” Pelosi said. “We’re saying to them, we have to freeze the design on some of these things — are we going with it or not and what is the language? I’m optimistic, because again we’ve been back and forth on all this.”
Stimulus talks have dragged on for months even as the coronavirus spreads across the U.S. and millions of Americans remain unemployed.
Pelosi, in a letter to House Democrats on Sunday, said Mnuchin had sent her the awaited language on coronavirus testing over the weekend, a long-standing point of contention in the negotiations. She said there was some “encouraging news,” though “much work remains” on the issue.
Mnuchin said last week that the White House won’t let differences over funding targets for testing derail stimulus talks. However, Pelosi accused the White House on Sunday of weakening the language on testing and tracing so much that the funding would create a slush fund for the administration.
“Instead of recognizing the need for a strategic plan, they have changed words including ‘shall’ to ‘may,’ ‘requirement’ to ‘recommendation,’ and ‘strategic plan’ to ‘strategy,‘” Pelosi wrote in the letter to House Democrats. “These changes make the funding a slush fund for the Administration which ‘may’ grant or withhold rather than a prescribed, funded plan to crush the virus.”
Pelosi said the White House had removed 55% of the language in the Heroes Act on testing and tracing, despite administration promises to accept the Democratic language with a “light touch.”
“Especially disappointing was the elimination of measures to address the virus’s disproportionate and deadly impact on communities of color,” the House speaker wrote. “The White House does not appreciate the need to direct resources to culturally competent contact tracing.”
The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s inquiry regarding Pelosi’s comments.
Democrats, who have passed a $2.2 trillion relief bill in the House, have dismissed the Trump administration’s latest $1.8 trillion proposal as insufficient. The two sides also disagree on other major policy issues including funding for state and local governments and liability protections for businesses during the pandemic.
Even if Pelosi and Mnuchin are able to reach a bipartisan deal, many Senate Republicans have opposed spending close to $2 trillion on a package.
The Senate is set to vote on a limited $500 billion stimulus bill on Wednesday, which will include funding for schools, expanded unemployment benefits and a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program.
But Democrats blocked a $500 billion Republican plan in the Senate last month and will likely dismiss the latest GOP proposal as insufficient too.