Time is running out for United States lawmakers to seal the deal on a stimulus package before this year’s historic election.
Yesterday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke for 45 minutes in an effort to negotiate their parties’ differences on issues including the dollar amount of unemployment benefits and protections for small businesses, as well as funding for states and cities plus money for coronavirus testing. Over the weekend, Pelosi had set a deadline to reach an agreement with the White House on Oct. 20 in order to get a bill passed through both chambers of Congress by Nov. 3.
In a letter to her caucus post-discussions, Pelosi wrote that her conversation with Mnuchin “provided more clarity and common ground.” She added that the Tuesday deadline “enabled us to see that decisions could be reached and language could be exchanged, demonstrating that both sides are serious about finding a compromise.”
The two are expected to resume talks today, but any proposal would likely get a vote during a lame-duck session, as some policymakers who return to their chambers following the election will not be in the next Congress.
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What’s more, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that the stimulus package was unlikely to get a vote before the election. Multiple reports, which cite sources familiar with the conversation, indicated that McConnell told Republican members at a closed-door lunch yesterday that he was “encouraging” the White House to wait until after Nov. 3 to finalize an agreement. Publicly after the meeting, however, he told reporters that he would put the bill up for a vote if a deal is struck between Mnuchin and Pelosi, as well as receives the support of President Donald Trump.
According to reports, the latest stimulus agreement under discussion could total between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion. Both Democrats and Republicans have said that they favor providing another round of direct payments to individuals and families, as well as continuing additional unemployment benefits though they have differed significantly on amounts. Business leaders like Walmart CEO Doug McMillon as well as trade groups such as the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America have urged the government to enact legislation that could help provide financial aid to an ailing U.S. economy as the coronavirus pandemic remains a reality.