House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke for nearly an hour Monday, but once again were unable to agree on terms for a massive new round of spending to boost the U.S. economy.
Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hammill said Pelosi was still “optimistic” about making a deal, but the failure to reach an agreement Monday all but guarantees that no bill will be passed before Election Day.
Numerous issues still divide the negotiators, including the language defining a national testing and tracing program for the coronavirus – a problem that was supposedly nearly solved last week. Congressional staff spent the weekend working on various aspects of the legislation, but reportedly made little progress.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Monday that differences between the sides “have narrowed,” but “the more it narrows, the more conditions come up on the other side.”
Pelosi blamed the White House for the failure to come to terms. “Today, we are waiting for an important response on several concerns, including on action to crush the virus,” Pelosi said Monday in a statement. “Ten days after Secretary Mnuchin went on CNBC to declare that he was accepting our testing plan, the Administration still refuses to do so.”
Pelosi called on the White House to continue to work on a potential deal. “We must come to agreement as soon as possible,” she said. “But we cannot accept the Administration’s refusal to crush the virus, honor our heroes or put money in the pockets of the American people. The Democratic message to the American people is: “Help Is on the Way. It Will Be Safer, Bigger, Better and Retroactive.” It is a matter of life-or-death, and Democrats are deadly serious about the responsibility we face.”
Focus on lame duck: As hopes fade for a stimulus bill in the near term, lawmakers are turning their attention to the weeks after the election, when Congress will need to pass fiscal legislation ahead of a December 11 deadline to fund the federal government.
“The prospects will improve after the election once we get past the current unpleasantness that we go through every even numbered year,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said Sunday. “There’s a whole range of things that we all agree on. And I don’t know why we can’t at least do that.”
Not everyone agrees that a stimulus bill is likely to pass after November 3, however, with much depending on the results of the election. Surveying the various possible outcomes of the election. Bloomberg’s Timothy L. O'Brien and Nir Kaissar said Monday that one of the most likely outcomes – Biden winning with the Senate remaining in Republican hands – could mean no deal gets done. In that scenario, the economy is “left to its own devices, and a return to the pre-Covid economy is unlikely anytime soon,” they wrote.