House prepares to pass revised COVID relief bill as White House talks hit roadblock

Schumer and Pelosi. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House appeared likely to move ahead Thursday with Democrats' revised $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill as 11th-hour negotiations with the White House continued.

The latest: After meeting for more than 90 minutes on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin shared a phone call at 1 p.m. Thursday. They plan to speak again later this afternoon, according to a Pelosi aide. Wednesday's meeting was the first in-person meeting between the two since August, when negotiations stalled.

  • Pelosi is pushing Democrats’ slimmed down version of the HEROES Act, with a new price tag of $2.2 trillion (details here), down from the initial $3.4 trillion. The White House is in the midst of preparing a counter offer of $1.6 trillion, with a $20 billion extension in aid for the airline industry, which is facing massive round of layoffs.
  • However, many Senate Republicans think even the White House’s offer is too high, and insist they won’t agree to a price tag over $1 trillion. Democrats say they won’t go lower than $2 trillion.

Why it matters: House Democrats' proposal, a slimmed down version of their initial $3.4 trillion HEROES Act passed in May, is part of a last-ditch effort to strike a stimulus deal with Senate Republicans and the White House before the election. Many lawmakers admit they think the bill has little chance of becoming law, but Pelosi has described it as a "proffer" for negotiations.

Between the lines: Both sides want a deal.

  • Pelosi is facing immense pressure from moderate Democrats, who insist they need something tangible to bring back to their constituents ahead of Election Day.
  • The White House, whose best play for re-electing Trump is a strong economy, wants to inject stimulus into the economy before Nov. 3. Mass layoffs by Disney and the airline industry only add to their desire to reach a deal.

But both Pelosi and the White House cast doubt on the process Thursday, acknowledging that the two sides still have a long way to go on key priorities, like state and local aid and food-stamp benefits.

  • “We come from two different places," Pelosi said at a press conference, arguing that Democrats and Republicans have a difference "not just of dollars, but of values."
  • "Nancy Pelosi is not being serious. If she is becomes serious than we can have a discussion,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday. “We raised our offer to $1.6 trillion … it’s a good offer but it’s one Nancy Pelosi is not interested in."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is perhaps the most skeptical that an agreement will be reached before the election. McConnell told reporters Thursday that he wishes the White House well in their efforts, but noted that they’ve been down this road before to no avail.

  • A Senate GOP aide told Axios the feeling within the Republican conference is that they’re confident there will going to be another package at some point, but highly doubt it’ll happen before November.

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