(Bloomberg) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a bill for a compromise stimulus package is being written as she awaits a key phone call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Tuesday.
Pelosi said in a Bloomberg Television interview that while there are areas where more work is required to get a compromise, she was pleased with the Trump administration’s latest position on coronavirus testing and tracing. The two sides are also “in range” on other health care provisions, she said.
In her communication with Democratic colleagues in recent days, Pelosi has emphasized many areas where differences remain. Her optimistic comments in the interview helped stocks extend gains, with the S&P 500 Index up 1% as of 1 p.m.
Pelosi flagged that assistance to state and local authorities and providing income assistance to working families remain areas where work is needed. . On a Republican push to provide businesses with liability protection against virus-related lawsuits, she expects to present a counter-offer to Mnuchin Tuesday afternoon. She said a compromise is possible based on strong government Covid-19 workplace regulations.
“We are starting to write a bill,” Pelosi said. “We all want to get to an agreement.”
Even if the two do get a deal, Senate Republicans could still loom as a roadblock. A number of GOP members have balked at a stimulus of the scale of $1.8 trillion or more. House Democrats are pushing $2.2 trillion, and Trump said Tuesday that he could embrace a number “even bigger than the Democrats.”
Trump Tuesday reiterated his view that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will proceed with any bill agreed between the administration and Pelosi. “He’ll be on board if something comes,” he said on Fox News Tuesday.
McConnell is aiming to shame Democrats for what he described as an “all or nothing” approach, by trying to secure a vote on legislation offering aid in areas that both Democrats and Republicans support.
Tuesday afternoon, McConnell will try to stage a test vote on a bill allowing unused funds from the March stimulus law to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program to aid small businesses. On Wednesday he plans a $500 billion stimulus, along the lines of what he tried and failed to pass last month. Democrats are expected to block both efforts.
Republicans resisting a bigger package would be put in a jam if Mnuchin and Pelosi do get a deal, as they’d have to choose whether to fold and support their president or expose intra-party divisions. But time is running short for a compromise to get enacted by the Nov. 3 election.
“It might not be finished by Election Day,” Pelosi said. “We need our legislation all written by the end of this week” for that to happen, she said. She added that she’d like to speed ahead in an effort to help people before rent payments are due on Nov. 1.
Pelosi said she’s telling her colleagues not to worry about any “collateral benefit” that could accrue to Trump if a deal is sealed before Nov. 3.
She expressed particular optimism that the Trump administration has now agreed to a strategy designed to “crush the virus.”
The speaker has tasked House committee chairmen to work out legislative language on a bill with their Senate Republican counterparts. Talks among appropriations committee members are so far stalled because the levels of spending in accounts they have been charged with resolving are interlinked with with unresolved areas in the core Pelosi-Mnuchin talks, according to aides in both parties.
The appropriations staff members have hit a “bump in the road,” Pelosi said, adding that legislation is always “tough.”
It would take several days after an Pelosi-Mnuchin agreement for the spending committees to negotiate out the details, according to a GOP aide.
Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby said his staff doesn’t have the details from Mnuchin or Pelosi they need to work out a bill.
“I’m not optimistic about us doing anything,” Shelby said. “We should have done something and we had the opportunity and the Democrats wouldn’t do it several months ago.”
(Updates with context and comments throughout.)
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