CORONAVIRUS

Pelosi Says No Stimulus Package Deal Yet, McConnell Says Leaders Are ‘Very Close’

Mar 22, 2020, 11:11 AM | Updated: Jun 27, 2022, 8:17 pm
U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to members of the media at the U.S. Capit...
U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to members of the media at the U.S. Capitol March 13, 2020 in Washington, DC. Speaker Pelosi held a briefing on the Coronavirus Aid Package Bill that will deal with the outbreak of COVID-19. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

(CNN) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sounded an ominous warning Sunday that she may not support an emerging coronavirus economic stimulus bill that had been on a fast track through Congress this weekend.

Departing a meeting with the top four congressional leaders and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Pelosi said there is no deal yet and that the House will introduce its own bill — something that could significantly draw out the process to finalize legislation.

The fate of a final proposal — and quite possibly the American economy— is in the hands of the four congressional leaders, all of whom gathered in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Sunday.

McConnell struck an optimistic tone in a news conference after the meeting, despite the fact that no bipartisan deal has been reached yet. He said that negotiators are “very close” and that he is “confident” that they will “get to yes.”

He insisted that the Senate will still take a vote on final passage Monday saying, “Make no mistake about it: We’ll be voting tomorrow.”

The massive emergency aid package being negotiated on Capitol Hill has grown to roughly $2 trillion as bicameral, bipartisan leaders come together Sunday to try and clinch a final agreement, according to two people directly involved in the talks.

“From my standpoint, we’re apart,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol when asked if she expected a deal Sunday.

Pelosi spoke as she arrived at that critical meeting. The Senate did consider input from Pelosi and House committees who worked through Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer to provide it.

Schumer told reporters after the four corners meeting that lawmakers “are continuing to talk.”

On Saturday, Schumer signaled he might accept the bill. But on Sunday morning, Democratic sources said they had uncovered numerous problems with provisions dealing with aid to workers and loan assistance to businesses.

If Pelosi doesn’t support the bill, Senate Democrats could stall action on the bill by blocking a procedural motion set for a vote Sunday afternoon.

The Speaker also could change it when the bill goes to the House if it passes the Senate on Monday, as Senate Republicans and the White House want. That could slow getting out the much-needed aid to workers and businesses. Pressure would mount — from Wall Street to Main Street — on Pelosi and House Democrats if they don’t act quickly.

The scale of the package — which has grown by over a trillion dollars over the course of several days and by more than $500 billion just during Saturday’s negotiations alone, the people said — underscore the recognition of the urgency brought on by the accelerating spread of the coronavirus pandemic that has all but shuttered the American economy over the last week.

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Staff worked through the night — some in the office past 3 a.m. ET, people told CNN — to draft the legislative language to reflect the status of the negotiations between the four bipartisan working groups that have been cloistered in closed Senate hearing rooms for hours over the course of an urgent last few days.

Republicans have expressed optimism that a deal is in the offing, but there are still a handful of hurdles that have kept Democratic negotiators from fully signing on. That said, lawmakers on both sides acknowledge that a deal is imperative as soon as possible, with a procedural vote to move forward on the package set for Sunday afternoon and a final vote to pass any agreement set for as soon as Monday.

Mnuchin appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and said lawmakers have a “fundamental understanding” that a deal has been reached to pass a massive stimulus bill as soon as tomorrow.

McConnell struck an optimistic tone Saturday night, saying in a statement the negotiations would produce a compromise that should be able to pass the Senate with an overwhelming bipartisan majority.

Still, a final agreement has not been reached and there are still Democratic objections to the text Republicans have put together to this point, according to people familiar with the Republican effort to this point. Democrats also raised concerns that Republicans moved ahead with drafting the final proposal before a global deal in principle had been reached.

“Democrats very much want to reach a bipartisan agreement to address this major health and economic crisis,” Justin Goodman, spokesman for Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, said in a statement Saturday night. “There is not yet an agreement, and we still have not seen large parts of the Republican draft.”

Key outstanding issues, according to people involved in the talks and those who have seen the draft Republican proposal, center on two fronts: the total aid package that can be directed to the states and the restrictions included in the aid pool created for distressed large industries.

That piece of the package has grown to more than $500 billion, according to a person familiar with the Republican bill as its drafted to this point, grants significant discretion to the Treasury secretary in terms of how the money must be used and the scale of the restrictions for the companies that receive loans as it relates to future stock buy backs — a key ask for Democratic negotiators.

Democrats have also continued to push for an expansion of stabilization funds for states and localities — a request from the National Governors Association. While a significant amount of money has been included, much of it through the addition of the supplemental emergency funds that has been fold into the bill, Democrats have pressed for more as states face significant budget shortfalls in the months ahead.

Democrats have, however, secured wins on several other key priorities, including an expansion and enhancement of unemployment insurance to the tune of at least $250 billion, the people said. They have also negotiated significant funds to be directed toward health care providers and front line health workers.

Bipartisan negotiators also reached an agreement in principle on a $350 billion forgivable loan package for small businesses that would be designed to keep employees paid even as business ground to a halt.

The total cost of the package has been the subject of some confusion over the last 24 hours, with Larry Kudlow, the director of President Donald Trump’s National Economic Council, saying Saturday it would end up around $2 trillion, only to later clarify that included the legislative package, plus the leverage deployed through a Federal Reserve lending facility.

Now, however, the legislative package alone has reached $2 trillion, the people said.

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Pelosi Says No Stimulus Package Deal Yet, McConnell Says Leaders Are ‘Very Close’