House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., expressed optimism of Democrats and the White House reaching a bipartisan deal as President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis jolted the stalled stimulus negotiations.
“This kind of changes the dynamic,” Pelosi told MSNBC on Friday. “They see the reality of what we have been saying all along.”
Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recently returned to the negotiating table in hopes of crafting legislation that could pass both the Democratic-controlled House and GOP-controlled Senate.
"We will have a bipartisan bill, that's our goal to have," Pelosi added. “I’m optimistic, I’m always optimistic. We always have to find a path, that is our responsibility to do so, and I believe that we will.”
At the same time, Pelosi detailed "five notable areas of concern" to her Democratic colleagues on Friday after the House passed the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package on Thursday evening. Those sticking points include extra unemployment benefits, funding for schools, aid for state and local governments, child care support, funding for increased testing and tracing, and the amount of funding for other appropriations.
“Our negotiations with the administration continue, and I am hopeful that we can reach agreement,” Pelosi said in the letter to Democratic lawmakers. “However, we still have significant disagreement in key areas.”
‘The president’s illness increases the White House’s need to deliver aid’
The White House’s latest proposal is $1.6 trillion and Mnuchin — who has been leading the negotiations on behalf of the White House — said is similar to the $1.5 trillion stimulus package a bipartisan group of House members unveiled in mid-September.
“Perhaps the president’s illness increases the White House’s need to deliver aid to voters to give the president a ‘win’ while he’s off of the campaign trail,” Sarah Binder, a professor of political science at George Washington University and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, told Yahoo Money. “If a deal happens, it’ll be the result of a ‘perfect storm’ of the parties’ acute economic and electoral needs and Pelosi’s ability to pull a final deal closer to the House-passed measures.”
Pelosi and Mnuchin held another call on Friday afternoon and their discussions will continue, Pelosi’s spokesman said in a tweet.
“My sense is that Speaker Pelosi continues to face pressure from her swing district Democrats to deliver more relief before the election, that the White House has been inching closer to the pared-back HEROES Act, and that the threat of airlines and more corporate layoffs have jolted both parties to push harder towards a deal,” Binder said.
‘We are expecting a response from the White House’
The passage of the bill by Democrats was a way for them to formalize their stimulus proposal as the negotiations continue.
“We are expecting a response from the White House on these areas and others with more detail,” Pelosi said in the letter. “In the meantime, we continue to work on the text to move quickly to facilitate an agreement.”
The updated HEROES Act still costs around $600 billion more than Mnuchin and the president’s proposal. The $2.2 trillion price tag opens an even bigger gap compared with the latest Republican proposal, which was worth around $300 billion and was rejected in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., referred to the updated HEROES Act as “another multi-trillion dollar far-left wish list with virtually all the same non-COVID-related poison pills as their last unserious bill.”
At the same time, McConnell previously said that the GOP would go along with any deal agreed to by the White House and Democrats and reiterated that will try to persuade Republican lawmakers to vote on it.
“The principle negotiation is between the president and the speaker of the House,” McConnell told Fox News on Thursday. “If they can reach an agreement, I will take a look at it and see whether I can sell that to Senate Republicans.”