Daily Camera (Boulder)

White House ups virus aid of­fer, re­sumes talks

- By Andrew Tay­lor and Bruce Schreiner US Elections · U.S. News · US Politics · Politics · Elections · Republican Party Politics · Washington · Executive Office of the President of the United States · Donald Trump · Republican Party (United States) · United States Senate · Congress of the United States · Twitter · U.S. Treasury · Steven Mnuchin · Nancy Pelosi · Democratic Party (United States) · Mitch McConnell · Kentucky · U.S. Supreme Court · Amy Coney Barrett · Lawrence Kudlow · White House · Mark Meadows · Rush Limbaugh · Tompkinsville, KY

WASHINGTON — The White House is boost­ing its of­fer in up-and-down COVID-19 aid talks Fri­day in hopes of an agree­ment be­fore Elec­tion Day, even as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s most pow­er­ful GOP ally in the Se­nate said Congress is un­likely to de­liver relief by then.

Trump on Fri­day took to Twit­ter to de­clare: “Covid Relief Ne­go­ti­a­tions are mov­ing along. Go Big!” A top eco­nomic ad­viser said the Trump team was up­ping its of­fer in ad­vance of a Fri­day con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The two spoke for more than 30 min­utes Fri­day af­ter­noon, said Pelosi spokesman Drew Ham­mill.

A GOP aide fa­mil­iar with the new of­fer said it is about $1.8 tril­lion, with a key state and lo­cal fis­cal relief com­po­nent mov­ing from $250 bil­lion to at least $300 bil­lion. The White House says its most re­cent prior of­fer was about $1.6 tril­lion. The aide re­quested anonymity be­cause the ne­go­ti­a­tions are pri­vate.

“I would like to see a big­ger stim­u­lus pack­age than ei­ther the Democrats or Repub­li­cans are of­fer­ing,” Trump said on Rush Lim­baugh’s ra­dio show Fri­day. Ear­lier this week, Trump lam­basted Democrats for their de­mands on an aid bill.

Pelosi’s most re­cent pub­lic of­fer was about $2.2 tril­lion, though that in­cluded a busi­ness tax in­crease that Repub­li­cans won’t go for.

But GOP Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mcconnell told an au­di­ence in Ken­tucky that he doesn’t see a deal com­ing to­gether soon out of a “murky” sit­u­a­tion in which the par­tic­i­pants in the ne­go­ti­a­tions are el­bow­ing for po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage.

“I’d like to see us rise above that like we did in March and April but I think it’s un­likely in the next three weeks,” Mcconnell said. Mcconnell said later that “the first item of pri­or­ity of the Se­nate is the Supreme Court,” sug­gest­ing there isn’t time to both process a COVID relief bill and the nom­i­na­tion of Judge Amy Coney Bar­rett be­fore the elec­tion.

He spoke af­ter Trump ap­par­ently per­formed an about-face, em­pow­er­ing Mnuchin to re­sume ne­go­ti­a­tions with Pelosi, D-calif., on a larger, com­pre­hen­sive coro­n­avirus relief pack­age de­spite call­ing off the talks just days be­fore.

White House eco­nomic ad­viser Larry Kud­low told re­porters Fri­day that “de­vel­op­ments are pos­i­tive” and that “the bid and the of­fer have nar­rowed” in ad­vance of a the tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion later Fri­day be­tween Pelosi and Mnuchin.

Mcconnell re­mains a skep­tic that a deal can come to­gether — and he has is­sued pri­vate warn­ings that many Se­nate Repub­li­cans will op­pose a deal in the range that Pelosi is seek­ing.

“We do need an­other res­cue pack­age,” Mcconnell said. “But the prox­im­ity to the elec­tion and the dif­fer­ences about what is need at this par­tic­u­lar junc­ture are pretty vast.”

Later Fri­day, dur­ing an ap­pear­ance in Tomp­kinsville, Ken­tucky, Mcconnell said, “I don’t know whether we’ll get an­other (virus relief) pack­age or not.”

Mcconnell’s re­marks capped a tu­mul­tuous week in which Trump sent con­flict­ing sig­nals and made un­work­able de­mands. On Tues­day, he or­dered an end to the week­s­long talks af­ter be­ing told that few Repub­li­cans in Congress would end up vot­ing for a pos­si­ble Pelosi-mnuchin deal.

Af­ter tak­ing blow­back for that de­ci­sion, Trump sought to re­vive the ne­go­ti­a­tions Thurs­day. Yet even as Mnuchin was reen­gag­ing with Pelosi, staffers in the White House — work­ing un­der chief of staff Mark Mead­ows, a key ne­go­tia­tor — were is­su­ing de­mands for a smaller pack­age stuffed with Trump’s pri­or­i­ties.

All this comes as Trump is slid­ing in the polls and is side­lined by his COVID-19 in­fec­tion. The White House is short-staffed and deal­ing with in­fec­tions among its em­ploy­ees. And the pres­i­dent and Pelosi are at­tack­ing each other’s men­tal health.

That the talks were headed nowhere was an open se­cret among close ob­servers in Washington, but both sides had been re­luc­tant to de­clare them dead un­til Trump did so Tues­day, mak­ing him­self a mag­net for blame. The talks are still un­likely to pro­duce re­sults in the near term be­cause even if there was a break­through, it could take weeks to process.

Mcconnell says he is open to re­sum­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions in a post-elec­tion lame-duck ses­sion, but that prospect is murky as well, de­pend­ing on the re­sults.

On Fri­day, Pelosi is­sued a down­beat assess­ment in a let­ter to her col­leagues but ex­pressed some op­ti­mism in an ap­pear­ance on MSNBC.

“I do hope that we’ll have an agree­ment soon,” Pelosi said.

 ?? Chip So­mod­ev­illa / Getty Im­ages ?? White House Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Di­rec­tor Alyssa Farah talks to re­porters fol­low­ing an in­ter­view with FOX out­side the West Wing Fri­day in Washington. With­out re­veal­ing specifics, Farah said the White House is op­ti­mistic about reach­ing a deal with House Democrats on coro­n­avirus relief leg­is­la­tion. ‘We are will­ing and ea­ger to make a deal,’ she said.
Chip So­mod­ev­illa / Getty Im­ages White House Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Di­rec­tor Alyssa Farah talks to re­porters fol­low­ing an in­ter­view with FOX out­side the West Wing Fri­day in Washington. With­out re­veal­ing specifics, Farah said the White House is op­ti­mistic about reach­ing a deal with House Democrats on coro­n­avirus relief leg­is­la­tion. ‘We are will­ing and ea­ger to make a deal,’ she said.

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