Coronavirus stimulus: Nancy Pelosi sets a 48-hour deadline for getting a deal

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set a tight timeline for getting a new stimulus deal done before the election: just 48 hours.

During an appearance on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Pelosi suggested there likely won’t be time to pass a new package prior to November 3 if lawmakers don’t reach an agreement within the next 48 hours. “The 48 [hours] only relates to if we want to get it done before the election, which we do,” she said.

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been negotiating over a new stimulus package since the summer, but the effort has been stymied by disagreements over provisions on state and local funding, as well as Republican pushback over the scope of spending. Their talks were also briefly derailed by President Donald Trump, who in early October announced the White House would be ending negotiations, before changing course and demanding they proceed quickly.

Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, tweeted Saturday that there are “an array of additional differences” between what Democrats want and what Mnuchin has offered that would need to be worked out in the next two days. Pelosi noted Sunday, for example, that language over funds for coronavirus was an ongoing sticking point.

Whether the Tuesday deadline helps spur some much-needed progress, however, is an open question.

While House Democrats are negotiating with the White House, Senate Republicans, it seems, are on a parallel track. Even as Pelosi and Mnuchin continue talks about an expansive package — with a recent White House proposal suggesting a bill worth $1.8 trillion — Senate Republicans have been adamant that any stimulus be much smaller. On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the Senate would vote on a narrower $500 billion bill this week.

This new bill is a reminder that even if Pelosi and Mnuchin reach an agreement, there’s a great deal of uncertainty around whether Senate Republicans would support it, particularly given concerns many GOP lawmakers have expressed about adding to the national debt.

“That’s not what I’m going to put on the floor,” McConnell previously said of the recent $1.8 trillion White House offer.

The new Senate bill, however, isn’t expected to get the Democratic votes it needs in either the House nor the upper chamber: The targeted $500 billion bill includes only a fraction of the spending House Democrats have demanded in the latest version of their stimulus package, the HEROES Act, which allots $2.2 trillion in aid (down from the $3 trillion bill the House passed in May).

These developments are the latest continuation of a monthslong back-and-forth between lawmakers on what should be next for stimulus spending. It’s an argument that has seen House Democrats’ proposals blocked by ongoing disagreements over aid for states and expanded unemployment insurance, along with diverging concerns about the debt.

In the meantime, millions of people are grappling with evictions, unemployment, and business closures as the economic fallout from the pandemic continues.

What’s next for the stimulus

The next steps to watch are whether Pelosi and Mnuchin can actually come to an agreement in this 48-hour window — and if they do, how the Senate will handle it.

Currently the negotiations between House Democrats and the White House, and Senate Republicans’ push for their own measure are happening simultaneously, albeit separately.

The Senate on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on a standalone bill that would provide more funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides aid to struggling small businesses. And on Wednesday, the body is set to vote on a roughly $500 billion stimulus bill that would include funding for schools, expanded unemployment insurance, and coronavirus testing. “This is half a trillion dollars of good that Congress can do right now,” McConnell said in a Saturday statement.

Because of how much narrower this bill is compared to Democrats’ demands, the legislation is not expected to garner support from Senate Democrats and will likely fail to reach the 60 vote threshold it needs to pass.

Much like they did earlier this fall, Republicans’ are pushing this legislation to send a message: By voting on it, they’re putting pressure on vulnerable Democratic members who are blocking it — in order to make it look like they’re the ones obstructing more relief. Democrats, meanwhile, have pointed to the House’s passage of significantly more comprehensive bills in both May and October as signs that they’re committed to getting something done as well.

Given McConnell’s opposition to a previous $1.8 trillion proposal, Senate Republicans could still pose a major obstacle even if Pelosi reaches an agreement with the White House. McConnell on Saturday noted that the Senate would “consider” the deal if one was agreed upon, however. “If Speaker Pelosi ever lets the House reach a bipartisan agreement with the Administration, the Senate would of course consider it,” he said.

The outstanding issue — which has been the issue for months — is whether House Democrats, the White House, and Senate Republicans can all ultimately get onboard with the same bill.

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