Pelosi, Mnuchin continue talks on COVID bill with time running out for deal

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continued negotiations over a coronavirus relief bill after Pelosi had set a Tuesday deadline to reach a deal on legislation that could be passed in Congress ahead of the election.

Pelosi and Mnuchin were scheduled to speak by phone on Tuesday afternoon. The speaker said earlier in the day that she believed “we’re on a path” to achieving a deal.

“We’re on a path, and you have to be optimistic,” Pelosi said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “As the secretary and I say to each other, ‘If we didn’t believe we could get this done, why would we even be talking?'”

The two remain at odds over tax credits for families with children, how much aid should be provided to state and local jurisdictions and whether to include liability shields for businesses and other organizations.

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Pelosi said over the weekend that she believed a deal would have to be reached by Tuesday in order to move legislation through both houses of Congress. She told Bloomberg TV that the text of the bill would have to be crafted by the end of this week, with a vote in the House by the end of next week.

However, Pelosi signaled that she would be willing to continue negotiations with the White House even if Congress is unable to get a bill passed before Election Day.

“We could still continue the negotiation. It might not be finished by Election Day,” Pelosi said. “We still should have a responsibility to continue the negotiations, should we just not come to enough of an agreement and reconciliation of our differences.”

The White House has inched closer to offering $2 trillion for a relief bill, although Pelosi has continued to hold firm to the priorities outlined in the $2.4 trillion bill passed in the House last month. White House deputy communications director Brian Morgenstern said in an interview with Fox Business on Tuesday that the White House had agreed to a $1.88 trillion package.

Meanwhile, President Trump has indicated that he would be willing to go even higher on a stimulus bill than what the Democrats have proposed.

“I want to do it even bigger than the Democrats,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday morning. “And not every Republican agrees with me. They will.”

However, it is unclear whether enough Republicans will support the bill. Several GOP senators have expressed reservations about voting for a bill that would cost around $2 trillion. Even if every Democrat voted for the bill, it would still need support from 13 Republicans to reach the 60-vote threshold to pass. Senator John Thune, the majority whip, told reporters on Monday that “it would be hard” to get enough Republicans to support $2 trillion legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that if Pelosi and Mnuchin reach a deal on a “presidentially-supported bill,” he would bring it to the Senate floor for a vote.

“If a presidentially-supported bill clears the House, at some point we’ll bring to the floor,” McConnell told reporters.

But Senate Republicans are more supportive of a slimmer $500 billion measure that will receive a vote on Wednesday. The bill does not include several Democratic priorities, such as funding for state and local governments and a second round of direct payments, so it would be unlikely to pass in the House even if it were approved in the Senate. Even if all 53 Republicans in the Senate supported the $500 billion measure on Wednesday, it is unlikely to receive any votes from Democratic defectors, meaning that this bill will also probably fail to pass.

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