Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday refused to rule out the chance of reaching an agreement with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on another coronavirus relief package, even as she outlined several critical differences with the Trump administration and signaled that House Democrats would press ahead with their own legislation.
“We’re hopeful that we can reach an agreement because the needs of the American people are great,” Ms. Pelosi said at her weekly news conference. “But there has to be a recognition that it takes money to do that, and it takes the right language to make sure it’s done right.”
Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Mnuchin are scheduled to speak on the phone at 1 p.m., according to a person familiar with the discussion.
The two remain at odds over the scope of the package, with Democrats pushing a new $2.2 trillion plan unveiled earlier this week and Mr. Mnuchin bringing a $1.6 trillion offer to a 90-minute meeting in Ms. Pelosi’s Capitol Hill suite on Wednesday.
The stalemate comes as several industries, notably airlines, are running into severe financial constraints as the virus persists and people continue to shy away from traveling. United Airlines and American Airlines began furloughs of 30,000 workers on Thursday after Congress was unable to come up with a fresh aid package for the industry.
House Democrats, under pressure from rank-and-file lawmakers eager to return to their districts with news of a deal, are expected to vote on the $2.2 trillion plan on Thursday.
Democratic leaders had delayed plans to vote on the legislation on Wednesday, in an effort to give the talks between Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Mnuchin time to produce an agreement.
Ms. Pelosi insisted that approval of the House Democratic plan did not signal the end of negotiations, telling reporters, “It just says, you asked, here’s what it is — this is how we came down” from their initial $3.4 trillion proposal approved in May.
On Wednesday evening, Mr. Mnuchin said the talks had been “productive,” adding that a deal would include direct payments to Americans that would be similar in size to the previous round of payments. But he and other administration officials warned that the Democratic offer in its current form was unacceptable.
And in a sign of the ongoing acrimony, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, on Thursday placed blame on Ms. Pelosi for layoffs in the airline industry.
“Nancy Pelosi is not being serious” when it comes to the negotiations, she said.
Ms. McEnany confirmed that the White House offered a relief proposal that would cost $1.6 trillion, including $150 billion for schools and $250 billion for states and municipalities. She suggested that no additional offer was immediately forthcoming and suggested that Democrats should pass legislation on the items that the two sides already agree on.
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