(Bloomberg) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Democratic colleagues that a divide persists with the White House over a number of components of the fiscal stimulus she’s attempting to negotiate, even as an agreement nears on a coronavirus testing program.
The establishment of a national testing strategy had been a roadblock cited by Pelosi and her aides this week during talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
After a call lasting more than an hour Thursday, Mnuchin said the administration would only make minor edits to a Democratic proposal on that score. Paperwork is expected to be exchanged on Friday.
“Many other disagreements remain,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues Thursday evening. “These include but are not limited to funding for state and local government, tax benefits for working families, support for vulnerable small businesses, and child care funding.”
She also cited multiple so-called poison pills, “including their radical Liability Provision which forces workers to risk their lives in unsafe workplaces with no legal recourse.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been a strong advocate for liability protections for businesses to shield them from coronavirus-related lawsuits as they reopen.
McConnell has raised his own major roadblock to any deal: the size. President Donald Trump said Thursday he was prepared to go beyond the $1.8 trillion his team had been trying to offer to Pelosi, who favors a $2.2 trillion plan.
“He’s talking about a much larger amount than I can sell to my members,” McConnell said Thursday of Trump’s latest position.
The Treasury chief told Pelosi that Trump would weigh in with McConnell if an agreement were reached. Trump himself said of the Senate Republicans, “They’ll go. I haven’t asked them” because there isn’t a deal yet.
Mnuchin is expected to head to the Middle East in coming days, adding to signs that a pre-election agreement on stimulus won’t be forthcoming — though both sides have pledged to keep working on it.
Details of the emerging testing agreement haven’t been released. Pelosi and House Democrats have demanded $75 billion for what they’ve described as “a science-based national plan for testing, tracing, treatment and isolation, and for the equitable and ethical distribution of a safe and effective vaccine once developed.”
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