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

The Washington Post - - ECON­OMY & BUSI­NESS - BY ERICA WERNER erica.werner@wash­post.com Jeff Stein con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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.”

STEFANI REYNOLDS/BLOOMBERG NEWS

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told re­porters she wants to act quickly on a re­lief bill to clear the decks for a pos­si­ble Bi­den ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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