Pelosi, Mnuchin Trade Blame as Stimulus Negotiations Stall

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Friday put the onus on each other to re-energize flagging stimulus talks as prospects for action on virus relief legislation before the election are fading fast.

Pelosi said the burden is on President Donald Trump to push forward on stimulus negotiations and get reluctant Republicans to go along with any eventual deal reached with the White House on a nearly $2 trillion aid package.

“We could do that before the election, if the president wants to,” Pelosi said Friday in an interview on MSNBC.

Mnuchin, Pelosi’s primary negotiating partner, said there’s been significant progress but blamed the California Democrat for holding up an agreement by not compromising on her party’s priorities.

“We’ve offered compromises,” Mnuchin told reporters at the White House. “The speaker, on a number of issues, is still dug in. If she wants to compromise, there will be a deal.”

Talks between Pelosi and Mnuchin have been at a standstill over the past day and a half. Pelosi has reported progress on a virus testing, tracing and vaccination strategy — a key piece of the bill — but the same sticking points on state and local aid that have bedeviled the talks remain, with just a week and a half to go before Election Day.

Trump again on Friday derided Pelosi’s insistence on including aid to state and local governments, and accused her of wanting to stall a stimulus package until after the Nov. 3 election.

“She wants to bail out poorly run Democrat states and that’s a problem, because you’re talking about tremendous amounts of money and we don’t want to reward areas of our country who have not done a good job,” Trump said at the White House.

With the pace of talks dragging, resistance from Senate Republicans is building, and Trump’s ability to twist arms into supporting a deal appears to be waning. Now some House Democrats are telling Pelosi that they don’t want to vote on legislation before the election if the Senate won’t do so, according to a party official.

Talks Slowed

Pelosi said in an interview at the Capitol Friday that she and Mnuchin are waiting for congressional committees to report back on lower-level talks before having another call. Aides to the relevant committees say that there is little they can do until they get clearer guidance from Pelosi and Mnuchin however.

“The ball’s not moving much right now,” White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on Bloomberg Television. “The clock is ticking.”

He also questioned whether there needed to be a comprehensive stimulus bill now. “There’s no reason why we have to have this humongous bill, which covers so much ground,” Kudlow said.

Pelosi has said that the House still has time to vote on a stimulus bill before the election if the administration makes further compromises. But the Senate may not have time to act.

Putting off votes on a stimulus package until after the election raises the risk that the Trump administration will be less inclined or able to push a package through the GOP Senate. That likely would be amplified if Trump loses to Democrat Joe Biden and Republicans lose their Senate majority — leaving action on stimulus for the pandemic-stricken U.S. economy until late January at the earliest.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted that Trump would be able to persuade Senate Republicans to back a compromise deal, even though GOP leaders in the chamber have said there isn’t support for a stimulus package of the size being talked about in the negotiations.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama said Thursday that he’s among Republicans in the chamber who have been frustrated by the lack of details they’ve gotten from Mnuchin about the talks.

“A lot of the top line he is talking about is big — but we haven’t seen anything,” Shelby said, expressing doubt that a stimulus could be finished before the election. “I think it’s about two minutes to midnight, and we’re not going to pass anything until we see the particulars.”

He said that while a pre-election vote is possible, it’s “probably not going to happen.”

— With assistance by Justin Sink

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