As Americans hurting from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic head into yet another weekend with no relief in sight, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is suggesting that negotiations on Capitol Hill could finally turn a corner thanks to an unlikely wild card—President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
In an interview with MSNBC, Pelosi said Trump’s positive test “kind of changes the dynamic” because now Republicans may finally grasp the seriousness of the pandemic. Cynics exhausted by the ongoing lack of a deal may consider that a stretch, but at least it’s something.
Here’s the latest update on where things stand:
What’s happening right now?
Negotiations between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were expected to continue today after the two met in person on Wednesday, hoping to hammer out a stimulus deal that would pass both the Democrat-controlled House and the GOP-led Senate. Pelosi has said she remains “optimistic” and “hopeful” that a deal can be reached.
According to The Washington Post, Pelosi also released a statement asking the airline industry to hold off on a massive round of furloughs because the stimulus deal would include more aid. That’s at least an indication of the House Speaker’s confidence level.
What are some of the remaining sticking points?
Money is the main one. The Democrats just passed a pared-down version of the Heroes Act, but at $2.2 trillion, the price tag is still too rich for Republicans, whose own proposal is about $1.6 trillion. Aid for state governments, the amount that should go toward unemployment, and child tax credits remain key areas of disagreement.
Where do the two sides align?
Both sides support direct payments to low- and middle-income Americans in the form of $1,200 stimulus checks. WaPo also reports that the two sides are close on the details of $75 billion that would go toward COVID-19 testing and tracing. The Democrat and Republican plans both call for an extension of the federal unemployment benefits that ran out in July, but the amount is still being hashed out: Democrats want $600 a week, while the Republican plan would be $400 a week.
No one expects the recently passed Heroes Act to clear the Senate as it is. Until Democrats and Republicans can agree on a deal with bipartisan support (which is in short supply in the best of times and in even shorter supply in the weeks before a presidential election), Americans waiting for relief will have to keep waiting. For now, hope springs eternal.