“Are we going with it, or not? And what is the language?” Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
Pelosi and Mnuchin have been negotiating on and off since August about the size and scope of Congress’s next stimulus package, with much of the U.S. economy still in tatters as the pandemic rages on. Washington has already approved more than $3 trillion in aid, but it’s been six months since any new cash has gone out the door.
Those bipartisan talks have intensified in the last few weeks, though many lawmakers and aides say they’ve grown skeptical that an accord can be reached — let alone passed through Congress — in the final days before the election.
The situation has been made even more complicated by President Donald Trump himself, who called off the talks during his own battle with Covid-19 — only to backtrack a day later, and then call for an even bigger deal.
Pelosi said Sunday that she and Trump administration officials are still “seeking clarity” on the GOP’s specific offer on a national testing and contract tracing plan, which remains one of the key agreements of disagreement
“We’re seeking clarity, because … with all due respect to some of the people in the president’s administration — they’re not legislators,” she said, noting the administration had made small adjustments in language that were actually significant.
“They changed ‘shall’ to ‘may,’ ‘requirements’ to ‘recommendations,’ a ‘plan’ to a ‘strategy,’ not a strategic plan. They took out 55 percent of the language that we had there for testing and tracing,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke for more than an hour Saturday night, where Pelosi received “some encouraging news on testing” but remained not in agreement in other areas, according to her spokesman Drew Hammill.
“There remains an array of additional differences as we go provision by provision that must be addressed in a comprehensive manner in the next 48 hours,” Hammill said Saturday night.
Even if a deal on coronavirus relief between Pelosi and the White House is reached, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would need to bring it to the Senate floor and get Senate Republicans on board with the package.
McConnell did say Saturday that he would put a deal on the floor if it ever came together: “If Speaker Pelosi ever lets the House reach a bipartisan agreement with the Administration, the Senate would of course consider it.”
But the Senate GOP has been perennially skeptical of any funding agreement over $1 trillion, let alone a deal closer to $2 trillion as Pelosi and Mnuchin have been discussing.
Under pressure to pass some kind of relief bill before the election, McConnell has instead teed up Senate votes next week on a much narrower proposal than what Democrats and Mnuchin have floated.
“Speaker Pelosi keeps saying she feels ‘nothing’ is better than ‘something’ and clinging to far-left demands that are designed to kill any hope of a deal,” McConnell said Saturday.
Mnuchin — who has been largely optimistic throughout the talks — acknowledged earlier this week that the odds were diminishing to reach a deal before the election. He told the Milken Institute Global Conference that “getting something done before the election and executing on that will be difficult.”