White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the goal in talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a deal on a coronavirus relief package within the next 48 hours.
“The last 24 hours have moved the ball down the field,” Meadows said on Fox Business Wednesday, after the latest round of talks between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The goal is “some kind of deal in the next 48 hours or so.”
Mnuchin and Pelosi were scheduled to speak again on Wednesday. Any agreement still faces a roadblock in the Senate, however, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell having warned the White House against agreeing to anything akin to Pelosi’s more sweeping proposal.
Pelosi said that an agreement with the Trump administration needs to be done by the weekend to get a bill passed by the end of next week, ahead of Election Day November 3.
Even if the actual vote on a compromise has to wait until after the election, just announcing a deal before November 3 would be “very helpful to the economy and markets,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Wednesday.
“We’re moving closer,” Kudlow said Wednesday on CNBC. “There’s a sense of optimism.”
“The negotiations have entered a new phase, which is more on the technical side of trying to get the language right if we can agree on the numbers,” Meadows said on Wednesday.
Senate Republicans, however, remain on an entirely different track. Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney added his voice to the number of GOP members saying they’d vote against anything on the order of $1.8 trillion. Mnuchin has put forward $1.88 trillion, while Pelosi wants $2.2 trillion.
Given the risk of a damaging public split in the party just days before they face voters, McConnell has warned the White House not to rush into an agreement before the election, according to a person familiar with the matter. Meadows denied such a “warning” had been given, though did say that he recognised some Republican senators oppose another stimulus. He said he’d be speaking with GOP members on Wednesday, along with Mnuchin.
McConnell planed to seek a vote on a scaled-down package on Wednesday — a maneuver he tried last month only to be blocked by Democrats insisting on a comprehensive bill.
The Senate Republican effort of $500 billion includes items that both sides support, but is stripped of the elements many GOP members oppose — including large-scale assistance to state and local authorities, tax credits for working families and relief for airlines.
McConnell said his chamber would take up a comprehensive coronavirus stimulus package “at some point” if Pelosi and Mnuchin are able to resolve the final areas of disagreement and get a bill through the House. But he didn’t say whether he would support such a deal, or encourage GOP members to back it.
The Senate majority leader is focussed instead on speeding confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, with a potential vote expected early next week.
Differences remain over issues including tax credits
and state and local government assistance.