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Pelosi and Mnuchin, narrowing their differences on more economic stimulus, will talk again Tuesday

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been leading the negotiations on providing more economic stimulus.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been leading the negotiations on providing more economic stimulus.Andrew Harrer/Photographer: /Bloomberg

WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “continued to narrow their differences” on a coronavirus relief package, a Pelosi aide said Monday, as time draws short to reach agreement on a bill that could pass by Election Day.

“The Speaker continues to hope that, by the end of the day Tuesday, we will have clarity on whether we will be able to pass a bill before the election,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said on Twitter. “The two principals will speak again tomorrow and staff work will continue around the clock.”

Pelosi earlier Monday told House Democrats that significant areas of disagreement are standing in the way of any deal, according to four people who participated in the closed conference call.

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Democrats have resisted giving up on their priorities for local governments, workers, schools, and health care. Hammill said Democratic committee chairmen have been directed to work with their Republican counterparts in the Senate on a solution.

Republican lawmakers have not played a leading role in negotiations, with Senate GOP members favoring a far smaller effort than what’s under discussion. President Trump said if an agreement is reached he would lean on congressional Republicans to “come along.”

“We’re discussing it today very solidly — we’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters in Arizona. “Nancy Pelosi at this moment does not want to do anything that’s going to affect the election, and I think it will affect the election negatively for her.”

A welter of dividing lines remain between the two sides, including the scale of assistance to state and local authorities, tax credits Democrats want for lower-income families, liability protections that Republicans are pushing but Democrats oppose, and a repeal of a credit for past business-tax losses that Republicans want to keep.

While Trump has said he’s ready to match the $2.2 trillion spending level demanded by Democrats — or go higher — Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has consistently warned that most GOP senators will oppose any coronavirus relief package that big.

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Amid the continuing stalemate, lawmakers have been voting on single-party proposals in an effort to demonstrate they’re determined to do something to help households and businesses that continue to be hammered by the COVID-19 crisis.

After House Democrats early this month voted on a $2.2 trillion package, Senate Republicans will try to stage two votes in coming days on separate, smaller relief efforts. Both are expected to be blocked by Democrats.

“American families deserve for us to agree where we can, make law, and push huge amounts of money out the door while Washington continues arguing over the rest,” McConnell said Monday. “It’s what the country needs.”

First up on Tuesday in the Senate is a standalone bill to allow unused money left over from a $2 trillion March stimulus deal to reinvigorate the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides help to small businesses facing the risk of layoffs.

On Wednesday, McConnell plans to proceed with a broader package, on a scale that Democrats say isn’t sufficient. His last attempt at such a move, in September, was blocked. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said Monday, “The Republican proposal was unacceptable a month ago. It remains unacceptable now — even more so that the crisis has gotten even worse.”

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that if Pelosi and the administration get an agreement with Democrats, McConnell “will bring it to the floor, it will get a vote, and hopefully we’ll get stimulus on the way to the American people.”

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But McConnell made no such pledge publicly on Monday.

Most forecasters say nothing will be done before the Nov. 3 election. The question then is whether relief could get wrapped into an overall spending bill, which is due by Dec. 11. Without passage of such a stopgap funding package, the federal government faces a shutdown.