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How the 2020 election will affect COVID-19 stimulus

Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer, HuffPost Washington Bureau Chief Amanda Terkel, Yahoo News Editor-in-Chief Dan Klaidman, and HuffPost Senior Reporter Arthur Delaney discuss how COVID-19 stimulus talks will play out this election cycle.

Video Transcript

ANDY SERWER: We're now joined by HuffPost senior reporter Arthur Delaney. Arthur, welcome.

ARTHUR DELANEY: Thanks for having me.

ANDY SERWER: So a week ago, President Trump said stimulus negotiations were over until after the election, but since then, we've seen some action from both sides. Kind of confusing to keep track of. What's the latest, from your perspective?

ARTHUR DELANEY: Well, one thing to always remember is that President Trump is weird and not involved in these negotiations, ever, even though he will occasionally send tweets that appear to affect what's happening.

The negotiations are between Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Nancy Pelosi. And the two sides, in recent weeks, have come closer to each other's positions a little, but it's not very promising. And just today, Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to her colleagues, basically trashing the most recent offer from the Trump administration.

AMANDA TERKEL: Hey, Arthur. So, do you think that-- can you talk a little bit more about what Pelosi is thinking? You know, you've written about how people actually really do need more relief, do need stimulus funds. You know, she obviously wants a bigger bill than what the administration is proposing. But, you know, do you think she's wise in holding out for something bigger, or is she going to get blamed if nothing ends up going through?

ARTHUR DELANEY: I think it's a really complicated decision with, like, a matrix of factors going into it. Obviously, she says she's holding out for a better deal. There's a lot of agreement on some basic things like extra unemployment insurance, money for states, money for schools. But in each of those, the amount of money, there is still disagreement.

And then there are other things like PPE for election workers and more money to secure the election. And then the Republicans want to disallow lawsuits against businesses and schools related to coronavirus exposure.

So there's agreement on some things, no agreement on others. And it seems like there's growing pressure on Pelosi to just take what she can get now. She may not want to do that because incidentally, you know, it would help millions of people and alleviate pointless material suffering. It would also potentially help the president because he would get to send out checks with his name on them to like 120 million households, and that that could be a powerful thing for him heading into an election.

These could be measures that Pelosi could get closer to the election or after the election, especially if Democrats take the Senate. So there's a lot that she's factoring in, and I don't know how much she's anticipating an election result that's more favorable to Democrats. But if I had to guess, I would say that's clearly a factor.

In her letter today, she did say that Trump just wants to put his name on checks. And I think the implication is there that she doesn't want to let him have that, she'd rather wait.

DAN KLAIDMAN: So, Arthur--

ANDY SERWER: Speaking of--


ANDY SERWER: Go ahead, Dan.

I was just going to-- Go ahead, Dan.

DAN KLAIDMAN: Yeah, I was just going to say, Arthur, you said that-- you know, you talked about Trump being weird and not always involved in this process, but he did recently say that he wanted to go big, which was a reversal of his position about not doing a deal until after the election or to be targeted. But I wonder, just politically, if we're seeing-- how much of a divide we're seeing between Republicans on the Hill and the president, and what the political incentives are for Republicans to stick to their guns, either do a much smaller deal or no deal at all, because some of them might be thinking about life in Washington beyond Trump and maybe getting back to sort of traditional fiscal conservatives, which is what the Republicans have always been about.

ARTHUR DELANEY: That's a terrific point. There clearly is, and always has been, a big divide between traditional Capitol Hill Republicans and their lobbyists and President Trump, who has always had a sort of liberal economic policy agenda, where he supports paying money to workers and dishing out checks. He doesn't care how much it's going to cost.

That's actually really popular with all voters, not just Democrats, also Republicans. But the Republican elite hates that, and that-- you know, that may be another reason that Nancy Pelosi is hesitant to make a deal with Trump, because what if Mitch McConnell doesn't let it get a vote?

We already know that a majority of Senate Republicans who could be crucial here don't like this. It would be a handful of Senate Republicans, and then the Democrats who passed this. So-- and there are different incentives for them, you know. Did they-- did they not like it just because they think Trump is toast and don't want to waste money helping him? Did they not like it just because they hate giving money to workers because that's a burden on employers, who may have to raise wages due to the economic effect of all that money sloshing around?

There are a few reasons that Republicans might be against it, and that could also be factoring in to Nancy Pelosi's hesitancy to agree to the White House deal.

ANDY SERWER: Arthur, speaking of the president, let's hear what he had to say, specifically about why he thinks this deal's not happening right now.

DONALD TRUMP: Well, Republicans want to do it. We're having a hard time with Nancy Pelosi. She thinks she can influence the election. And I think they're hurting themselves by not doing it. But the Republicans want to do it. We want to do stimulus. We want to help the airlines again because the airlines are always a tough business. We want to help the restaurants, hotels. We want to help businesses that, really, it's not-- it's not their fault. It's China's fault, and we want to help that area.

And frankly, you know, we're ready to go. We're all ready to go. We can't get Nancy Pelosi to sign the document.

ANDY SERWER: Arthur, I'm not sure whether it's China's fault or Nancy Pelosi's fault there. But I mean, it is the case that there's gamesmanship going on here, calculation on both sides, as you've suggested. Do you think it's a legitimate complaint that the Democrats can't-- aren't able to compromise at this point? I mean, why not do something smaller?

ARTHUR DELANEY: I think there is a very compelling argument that Democrats ought to just take what they get, if what they care about here is helping workers. Because what the White House is offering, while much less than what Democrats have sought, is still an incredibly large amount of money, almost $2 trillion. That's more than Republicans let Obama have in the Great Recession.

The amount of money the White House is willing to put up for workers, while less than the $600 weekly supplement Democrats want, $400 is still, that's unprecedented. Congress has never given the unemployed that much money before. So there are some serious wins here.

But contrary to what the president said, Republicans are not ready to go. The president's ready to go. Republicans hate this deal completely. Senate Republicans don't like it, they don't want to do it. They would vote against it. House Republicans likely feel the same way. They have ideological reasons-- the deficit, too much money for workers.

So it's-- like I was saying before, it's a complicated matrix of factors here and Republicans are definitely not united on this. But it does seem like it's possible that Pelosi could get something through just by making a deal with the White House.

ANDY SERWER: A lot to sort through there. Arthur Delaney, senior reporter from HuffPost. Thank you very much for helping us see through all that.

ARTHUR DELANEY: Thanks for having me.