The chance of Congress striking a coronavirus relief deal before the November presidential elections remains elusive as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continue to spar over how much money to inject into the pandemic-ravaged economy.
Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke multiple times last week, including meeting in person on Wednesday, and over the weekend, but failed to reach an agreement on another round of fiscal stimulus for American workers and families still reeling from the coronavirus-induced crisis. Although Democrats and Republicans broadly agree that another bill is necessary to aid the economy's recovery, they sharply disagree over the size and scope of it.
"We're making progress," Pelosi said Sunday during an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation."
House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion package last week that includes extended federal unemployment benefits at $600 a week, a fresh round of $1,200 stimulus checks and additional funding for state and local governments.
But the White House and Republican leaders want to keep the price tag lower amid growing concerns among some lawmakers over the nation's ballooning deficit, which is projected to hit a record-shattering $3.3 trillion this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Mnuchin countered Pelosi's proposal with a $1.6 trillion relief bill, including $400 in weekly jobless benefits. Pelosi rejected the offer as inadequate.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Fox News on Monday that President Trump is committed to securing a deal.
“I do think that there is the potential for a deal as long as politics do not get in the way again,” Meadows said.
In a letter to fellow Democrats on Friday, Pelosi listed several familiar disputed issues, including aid for state and local governments, federal unemployment aid, the expansion of the child tax credit and funding for contact tracing and testing. But Pelosi is also facing pressure from moderate Democrats running for reelection in swing districts who are eager to bring a bipartisan deal to the floor before the Nov. 3 election. Last week, 18 Democrats voted against the $2.2 trillion proposal.
"Our negotiations with the administration continue, and I am hopeful that we can reach agreement," she wrote in the letter.
At the same time, while the GOP holds a slim majority in the Senate, some Republicans are wary of another big-spending package and believe the economy does not need additional stimulus to recover from the recession, meaning that any deal will need to be bipartisan.
Negotiations are further complicated after three Republican senators -- Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina -- and Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.
Trump, who announced that he had contracted the virus early Friday, was hospitalized later that evening at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he's remained for the past three nights. The president urged lawmakers to work together to strike a deal.
"OUR GREAT USA WANTS & NEEDS STIMULUS," he tweeted on Saturday.
A new report released by the Labor Department last week showed the U.S. economy added 661,000 jobs last month and the joblessness rate dropped to 7.9%. There are still roughly 10.7 million more out-of-work Americans than there were in February before the pandemic hit.