Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during her weekly press conference Thursday that she believes the bipartisan group of lawmakers engaged in negotiations over arelief bill are nearing a deal.
Pelosi said that she had “great respect” for the bicameral, bipartisan group of lawmakers engaged in negotiations over a $908 billion relief proposal.
“I think they’ve made great progress, and I salute them for that,” Pelosi said about the negotiators. However, the group has not yet published legislative text for their proposal. A six-page summary of the framework obtained by CBS News does not include specifics on liability protections for companies and institutions whose workers get COVID-19 and aid to state and local governments, two of the major sticking points in negotiations.
This framework is not a concrete bill, and lawmakers remain divided over the scale and scope of a relief package. Time is running out for Congress to pass any relief proposal, as it also must negotiate and approve an omnibus government funding bill before December 18 to avert a government shutdown.
Although Pelosi had previously been unwilling to consider legislation below $2 trillion, she said that there was now a “completely changed dynamic” with the looming inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and the development of a vaccine. Pelosi said she was now willing to consider a smaller package because of these two factors, adding that negotiations would continue next year.
“This is not a stimulus package. This is an emergency supplemental,” Pelosi said. “I think the values and priorities they’ve established are what we need to do right away.”
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday that he had spoken to Speaker Nancy Pelosi this evening and made a $916 billion offer for a relief bill. But Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said it “must not be allowed to obstruct the bipartisan Congressional talks that are underway.” They also rejected part of the White House proposal — a reduction in unemployment insurance funding from $180 billion to $40 billion. “That is unacceptable,” they wrote.
Mnuchin told reporters on Thursday that relief negotiations have made “a lot of progress” and there will be “more discussions going on today.”
“I spoke to senators on both sides last night, this morning. We had a very productive call yesterday with a lot of people. So I think we’re making a lot of progress,” Mnuchin said.
Schumer and Pelosi have also condemned the suggestion by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that Congress drop the most controversial items from any coronavirus package to be picked up again at the beginning of the year.
Nearly 290,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, and more than 15 million have contracted COVID-19. Pelosi on Thursday compared the death toll to the number of combat deaths during World War II, when more than 291,000 Americans died.