Washington — Despite ongoing discussions with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over another coronavirus relief package, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday revealed several areas that are still unresolved in talks with the Trump administration, indicating the two sides remain far apart on another measure designed to provide assistance to American families struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to Mnuchin, who has been leading negotiations for the White House, Pelosi placed the blame for the ongoing stalemate squarely on the Trump administration, arguing Democrats still have not received word on compromise language for a strategic testing, tracing and treatment plan, vaccines, and Obamacare coverage for Americans who are out of work.
"Your responses are critical for our negotiations to continue," the California Democrat told Mnuchin in the letter dated Thursday. "The president's words that 'after the election, we will get the best stimulus package you have ever seen' only have meaning if he can get Mitch McConnell to take his hand off the pause button and get Senate Republican chairmen moving toward agreement with their House counterparts."
Pelosi also indicated there is disagreement between Democrats and the White House on six issues: funding for state and local governments; funding for schools; child care; the earned income and child tax credits; unemployment benefits; OSHA and liability.
"[A]s the coronavirus surges and the stock market plummets, we are still awaiting the Trump administration's promised responses on multiple items of critical importance," she said.
In her weekly press conference on Thursday, Pelosi noted that Mnuchin hadon funding for testing earlier this month but had then failed to do so.
In a letter replying to Pelosi later on Thursday, Mnuchin accused the speaker of pulling a "political stunt" by releasing her letter to the press at the same time as she sent it to him. Mnuchin also said that the White House had provided "reasonable compromises" on state and local funding, schools, extended unemployment benefits, liability protections, and OSHA.
"Your ALL or NONE approach is hurting hard-working Americans who need help NOW," Mnuchin said.
Pelosi and Mnuchin have been engaged in negotiations over another coronavirus relief measure for weeks, but hopes of a deal passing before the November 3 election have slipped away. Members of the House have been in their home districts for much of October, while the after voting to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The Senate will next convene November 9, while the House will not hold votes until the week of November 16.
Last week, the Senate voted on a tailored $500 billion coronavirus relief measure put forth by Republicans, but the bill was blocked by Senate Democrats, who said it did not do enough. The GOP, meanwhile, accused Democrats of refusing to compromise.
"We have been working on coronavirus relief. Unfortunately, the speaker has not been able to agree to anything remotely reasonable," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in an interview with Fox News on Monday.
McConnell had previously said that if Pelosi and Mnuchin were able to reach an agreement, he would bring their proposal to the Senate floor for consideration. However, CBS News confirmed last week that McConnell told Senate Republicans that he had warned the White House against reaching an agreement on a coronavirus relief bill ahead of the election.
Pelosi and Mnuchin last spoke Monday for 52 minutes, the speaker's spokesman Drew Hammill said, adding "progress depends on Leader McConnell agreeing to bipartisan, comprehensive legislation to crush the virus, honor our heroes — our essential workers — and put money in the pockets of the American people."
Pelosi said on Thursday that she believed Congress needed to prepare for the next phase of legislation if a new administration takes office in January.
"I feel very confident that Joe Biden will be elected president on Tuesday," Pelosi said. "We have to be ready for how we are going to go down a different path."
Over 225,000 Americans have died from the virus, and millions have lost their jobs due to the economic fallout caused by the pandemic.