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Pelosi and Mnuchin dig in on stimulus positions ahead of scheduled Monday talks – CNN

(CNN)Swift, bipartisan agreement on a new coronavirus stimulus package seems unlikely as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dug in on their opposing positions Sunday.

Democratic leaders and the White House held a round of productive meetings on Saturday, but reported that they remain far apart on an agreement. Pelosi and Mnuchin, along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, said they expect to meet Monday to resume discussions.
“We obviously need bipartisan support to get any deal done, the last two deals we got done 96-0 and 100-0. I think it’s pretty fair to say that we’re not going to do that again,” Mnuchin told reporters Sunday.
Asked on Sunday by ABC’s Martha Raddatz on “This Week” when negotiators could potentially have a deal, Pelosi said, “We’ll be close to an agreement when we have … an agreement.”
Each doubled down on what has been a main sticking point in negotiations: the extension of federal enhanced unemployment benefits that expired Friday.
Pelosi reiterated comments from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer last week that the $600 price tag on enhanced federal unemployment benefits is not a deal breaker for Democrats.
“The amount of money that is given as an enhancement for unemployment insurance should relate to the rate of unemployment, so as that goes down, you can consider something less than the 600, but in this agreement, it’s 600,” Pelosi explained.
However, the California Democrat disputed Hoyer’s comment that there was “some validity” to the Republicans’ argument that the $600 benefit is a disincentive for some Americans to go back to work, arguing that she has statistics to prove that the federal money is keeping people out of poverty.
“The $600 is essential. It’s essential for America’s working families. And, again, to condescend, to disrespect their motivation is so amazing … how insistent the Republicans are about a working family and their $600 and how cavalier they are about other money that is going out,” the California Democrat said.
She later noted that Democrats are “unified” in their support for the $600 benefit, and claimed that Republicans are in “disarray.”
Mnuchin argued that the White House had proposed a one-week unemployment benefit extension of $600 as negotiations continued, but had been rebuffed by Democrats. Without giving details, the Treasury secretary also said he and Meadows made “three or four” other offers to the Democrats to deal with enhanced unemployment.
Unemployment “should be tied to some percentage of wages, the fact that we had a flat number was only an issue of an emergency,” Mnuchin said in an interview on ABC “This Week,” but he added: “On the concept, we absolutely agree on enhanced unemployment, we want to fix the issue.”
The Treasury secretary on Sunday also highlighted another contentious issue in the talks: additional funding for local and state governments.
“The Democrats right now are insisting on over a trillion dollars to state and local governments that’s something that we’re not going to do, to bail out those who had financial issues,” he said.
Mnuchin had told reporters following talks on Saturday that “there’s clearly a subset of issues where we both agree on,” listing an extension of unemployment insurance, schools, the Paycheck Protection Program and jobs. But the House Speaker had made clear that Democrats are not interested in a short-term fix.
Pelosi said Sunday that many in her caucus would like to see a package that lasts through September or June of next year, but she just wants to make it through the appropriations process in January.
“What are we going to do? Come back to the table and do this in two or three months again? No. Let’s give this the courtesy and the certainty of some assurance that this support will be there,” she said in an interview on MSNBC.
Schumer, though, expressed optimism on Sunday, saying that while “significant” divisions remain, “good progress” was made in discussions with the White House.
“We made good progress, there are lots of things that we’re still divided on, and we’re not close to an agreement yet, but we are making progress and I’m hopeful that we can get to an agreement,” he told reporters in New York City after arriving from Washington, DC.
“We will meet again tomorrow, and I am working as hard as I can to get this done,” he said.

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Pelosi and McConnell hurtling toward coronavirus relief showdown – POLITICO

A few hours later Wednesday, Pelosi sought to claim an initial victory by arguing Republicans have significantly shifted their thinking since calling for a “pause” when the House passed its bill in May. But the California Democrat also made clear what McConnell is proposing right now isn’t nearly good enough.

“There’s a recognition that there’s going to be a bill,” Pelosi told reporters. “They went from zero to now $1.3 [trillion]. That’s not enough, we need more. But we see the public evolution of their thinking.”

Pelosi said Democrats’ behemoth bill largely doesn’t need to be adjusted, even as coronavirus cases have skyrocketed in a majority of states over the last month. But Democrats might make a push for extra education money in current talks as President Donald Trump continues to demand schools reopen in the fall.

“We put our marker on the table. It’s very disciplined, it’s nothing more than we need,” Pelosi said. “Although, I must say we may need more for education now that the president is making the demand that he is making.”

While Congress has already pumped more than $2.5 trillion in coronavirus relief into the economy via four bills — including a giant $2 trillion rescue package in March — McConnell has acknowledged that another bipartisan deal will be harder to reach given the political climate.

With 111 days until the election, McConnell must govern a divided caucus, with a number of Senate Republicans shunning additional government spending while vulnerable members up in 2020 are pleading to get something done before the August recess.

Both parties know that the forthcoming coronavirus package is likely to be the last before the November election, increasing pressure to squeeze in demands before going home to campaign amid a pandemic-induced recession.

“If McConnell has any hope of hanging onto his majority, he’s got to show leadership and responsiveness and he can’t do that by writing a Republican only bill,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) “We’re going to have to find bipartisan answers to these issues.”

Senate Democrats have spent weeks criticizing McConnell for not acting sooner. During a caucus call this week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told members that there’s been no outreach yet from McConnell and insisted that Senate Democrats will only negotiate if House Democrats are involved, according to a source on the call.

“Senator McConnell ought to be working across the aisle to prevent mass evictions, a new hunger crisis, and the layoff of more essential state and local government employees — all things that will happen if Republicans continue to delay action or act stingily,” Schumer warned in a statement to POLITICO.

One Senate Republican aide seemed stunned that his own party was blocking more coronavirus relief spending just over 100 days from an election where the majority is clearly in jeopardy and the economy is weak.

“It’s usually the minority that is blocking bills before an election, not the majority,” complained the aide. “It’s like they’re offering us cake, but we say, ‘No, we want the broccoli.’”

But Senate GOP leaders argue that much of the money allocated in the March CARES Act has yet to be spent and they want the next package to be more targeted.

While McConnell has told colleagues he wants to keep the price tag for the package at around $1 trillion, some in his caucus are open to spending more if needed.

In an interview, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) predicted that the next package would “probably not” be as large as the $2 trillion CARES package. But Graham added that he wants to “go big” and consider proposals like infrastructure or a payroll tax cut, both of which appear to have limited support in the GOP caucus.

“What’s different with Phase 4 and Phase 3? Phase 4 needs to be about jumpstarting the economy, building on the momentum of going back to work,” Graham said. “Phase 3 was a rescue package, Phase 4 needs to be a stimulus package.”

In a sign of the difficulties facing Congress, lawmakers can’t even agree what round of relief they are currently negotiating. Some classify the last $484 billion relief bill passed in April as only an “interim” measure and describe the current talks as “phase 4.” Other members refer to this round as “phase 5” because it will be the fifth coronavirus-focused bill.

Among the key sticking points will be addressing the extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits in the March CARES Act. Democrats want to see those benefits extended and are suggesting tying unemployment benefits to economic conditions. Senate Republicans, however, say the increase in unemployment benefits provide a disincentive for people to return to work.

A potential compromise could center around “return to work” incentives. Regardless, the additional benefits for most people are likely to lapse, at least temporarily, before a deal gets struck. While the March law authorizes the extra benefits through the end of the month, the money will effectively stop being paid out on July 25 under the way most state unemployment systems are set up.

House Democrats are also pushing for a boost in food aid, another round of stimulus checks to individuals and nearly $1 trillion in state and local assistance — non-starters for most Senate Republicans.

Adding to the uncertainty is what message the White House will send up to the Hill. Trump is making reopening schools a key focus, even going so far as to suggest that he’d withhold federal funds from schools that failed to reopen — a threat that has outraged Democrats.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said in an interview that he wants to see schools re-open, but he noted “the expenses of school don’t go away because you’re teaching at a distance, as opposed to teaching in a classroom.”

Blunt, who is also working with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on bills to fund the government for the next fiscal year, added that “100 days before a presidential election almost everything is a political sticking point.”



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Pelosi Trump

Pelosi: Trump ‘crossed a bridge’ when he donned mask – POLITICO

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill. | (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Donald Trump “crossed a bridge” when he donned a mask in public for the first time over the weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday. Pelosi called the move an “admission” that masks help stop the spread of Covid-19 during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Trump’s trip to Walter Reed National Medical Center on Saturday marked the first time the Republican president wore a mask in public. The decision was a departure from Trump’s past refusal to wear a face covering. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending Americans wear masks in public to stop the spread of Covid-19 in April.

“He’s crossed a bridge. That’s an admission that if you’re going to see our soldiers, you have to wear a mask. If you’re going to be with our children, you have to wear a mask. If you want to stop the spread of the coronavirus, you have to wear a mask,” Pelosi said on Sunday. “So hopefully by his example, he will change his attitude, which will be helpful in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.”

During the interview, Pelosi called for more federal funding to curb the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, including extending unemployment benefits that are set to expire at the end of July. The cost of the pandemic has surged past the first $8.3 billion coronavirus package the House passed in March, which Pelosi said at that time would address the scale of the pandemic.

Pelosi said on Sunday that she did not initially underestimate the scope of the pandemic, and instead pointed to Trump, who she said was in “denial” about the virus. Pelosi has faced criticism — particularly on the right — for her Feb. 24 visit to Chinatown in San Francisco, where she encouraged people not to be afraid to come there because of Covid-19.

“What we did was at that exact time was writing the first Covid bill, which we brought to the floor and passed on March 4th. It was about testing, testing, testing. Because if you don’t test, you don’t have a handle on what the problem is,” Pelosi said.

“We were writing the bill to find out what the threat was to us, while the president was saying delay, denial, calling it a hoax and causing deaths.”