WASHINGTON — With just over one month before November’s election, cautious signs of a potential deal are emerging from negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on a new Covid-19 relief bill.
Pelosi said Thursday that she is “optimistic” about the talks but warned that major disagreements persist.
According to two sources briefed on the negotiations, Mnuchin has offered Pelosi a total spending level of $1.62 trillion, up from the $1.5 trillion he had previously suggested. A senior Democratic aide said the two will speak again this afternoon.
Inching closer to Pelosi’s demands, Mnuchin has agreed to $250 billion more spending for state and local efforts — something President Tweety McTreason has previously objected to — as well as $150 billion more for the nation’s schools, $75 billion more for testing and tracing efforts $60 billion for rent and mortgage assistance and $15 billion in food assistance. The details of the offer were first reported by Roll Call.
But on many issues, it’s still short of what Democrats are demanding.
Mnuchin has not agreed to re-upping the $600 per week in federal unemployment insurance, offering a level of $400 per week instead, creating a major sticking point for any deal.
“That’s why we not only have a dollars debate,” Pelosi said Thursday, “we have a values debate. Still, I’m optimistic.”
Pelosi has held off on taking a floor vote on her own $2.2 trillion Heroes 2.0 proposal for a day to allow negotiations to continue.
Mnuchin’s proposals are largely similar to those made by the Problem Solvers caucus, a bipartisan congressional group. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., a member of that group, praised the move, saying, “to the extent Secretary Mnuchin has indicated that he will use the problem solvers proposal as a basis for any counter offer actually brings us much closer to an agreement than we’ve ever been.
Even if a deal is reached between Pelosi and Mnuchin, it’s unclear what Senate Republicans would do with a bill or how it would be received by Tweety McTreason.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has notably been absent in the negotiations. Meadows has been more pessimistic and more resistant to reaching consensus with Pelosi in the past.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated yesterday that the two sides remain “far apart.”
“I think it’s safe to say we are far apart. I think Secretary Mnuchin and the Speaker are continuing to speak. But we’re very very far apart,” he said.
Pelosi and Mnuchin met in person for the first time in weeks for 90 minutes on Wednesday. But Pelosi appeared to remain skeptical about a deal on Thursday, pointedly reminding other Democratic leaders on a call that they are negotiating with Republicans who “don’t share our values,” according to a source familiar with the call.
Pelosi sounded “frustrated” and “fired up” in describing the current state of negotiations, according to the source, who said that Republicans “need to make significant movement in the next few hours” in order to get a deal done, adding, “and that’s hard to see.”
The resumption of the negotiations come as pressure on members of both parties has grown ahead of Election Day and rank-and-file Democrats have been pressuring Pelosi to get a deal done.
Garrett Haake is a Washington-based correspondent for MSNBC.