Trump, Pelosi hold out hope for post-election relief deal
Yet in a letter to the treasury secretary, speaker suggests two sides remain far apart
President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi both held out hope Thursday for action on economic relief legislation immediately following the election — although they differed on what could or should happen.
Pelosi (D-calif.) told reporters at her weekly news conference that she would like to get a deal done during Congress’s post-election “lame duck” session that begins in November. She expressed optimism that former vice president Joe Biden will win the election Nov. 3 and suggested she wanted to clear the decks for him.
But Pelosi also said she would not accept a small bill with the idea of coming back for more once a Biden administration begins.
“We’re not talking size, we’re talking quality. We’re not going to take a small bill” that still has provisions Democrats deem unacceptable, Pelosi said.
“I want a bill for two reasons. First and foremost, the American people need help. They need real help. And second of all, we have plenty of work to do in a Joe Biden administration. . . . So we want to have as clean a slate as possible going into January,” Pelosi said.
Trump, meanwhile, told realitytelevision host Jon Taffer in a podcast released Thursday that the administration would reach a stimulus deal after the election and predicted Republicans will retake the House — a prospect political analysts on both sides view as exceedingly unlikely.
“Once we get past the election, we’re going to get it. It may be bipartisan; it may not have to be. Depending on — if we win the House, it won’t have to be. Right after the election, we’ll get it one way or the other,” Trump said.
Trump added of extending the small-business Paycheck Protection Program: “No matter who you are, no matter how cold, how mean, how nasty — and you have some beauties in Washington — it makes sense.”
Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been negotiating on and off for months around an approximately $2 trillion relief bill. They remain far apart, though.
Just how far was underscored earlier Thursday when Pelosi released a letter to Mnuchin outlining multiple areas that remained unresolved, including state and local aid, school funding, child-care money, tax credits for working families, unemployment insurance aid and liability protections for businesses sought by the administration but opposed by Democrats
She also said she was still awaiting a final answer from the administration on agreeing to the Demo
crats’ language on a national coronavirus testing strategy — something Mnuchin had said Oct. 15 that he was prepared to accept subject to minor edits. Pelosi put the onus on Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mcconnell (R-KY.) for a deal to emerge in the lame-duck session — if at all.
“Your responses are critical for our negotiations to continue,” Pelosi wrote in the letter, which was first reported by Politico Playbook. “The President’s words that ‘after the election, we will get the
best stimulus package you have ever seen’ only have meaning if he can get Mitch Mcconnell to take his hand off the pause button and get Senate Republican Chairmen moving toward agreement with their House counterparts.”
There was no immediate response from the Treasury Department.
The letter did not reveal any outstanding issue that had not already been publicly known. But it summed it all up, casting everything in a newly negative light with
the election imminent. Stocks have been falling as coronavirus cases rise and the president campaigns around the country accusing Democrats of focusing obsessively on “covid, covid, covid” in their quest to deny him a second term.
“The American people are suffering, and they want us to come to an agreement to save lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy as soon as possible,” Pelosi wrote. “In light of these challenges, I respectfully await your attention to these urgent matters.”
White House senior economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox News Channel that the letter was leaked to the media before it was sent to Mnuchin, calling it “bad form” and unnecessary given that Mnuchin and Pelosi are in close contact over the phone. A Democratic aide said that was untrue, saying Mnuchin’s team was sent the letter at 12:05 a.m. — hours before it was made public.
“Our team now believes the speaker has no intent of compromising on key issues,” Kudlow said. “She is stringing us along, and we think there is basically no hope.”
Asked if the decline in the stock market made the president more inclined to reach a deal, as Pelosi has suggested, Kudlow said, “Not at the present time, not at the present time.”
In his podcast interview, the president repeatedly insisted that the stimulus package would include expanded tax deductions aimed at helping restaurants. That provision would give firms tax deductions for employee meals at restaurants. Economists have said those breaks are unlikely to do much to help the industry as long as diners are afraid to eat out due to the novel coronavirus.
“I love that you said [restaurants] are counting on me because they can. I’m the one who got this whole thing started, that kept them going in the first place. I’m the one that’s fighting for deductibility, which will be such a big thing,” Trump told Taffer, the host of Paramount Network’s “Bar Rescue.” “That will be bigger — you’ll make everything up very quickly. . . . That was a great business when you had deductibility. It was never the same after they ended up close to 20 years ago. But I remember it well.”
The president added: “This is the time to get things. Normally, you couldn’t even think about deductibility. But because of the things aren’t so good in that business, this is the time we can actually get it done.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters she wants to act quickly on a relief bill to clear the decks for a possible Biden administration.