Senate Skepticism on Pre-Election Stimulus Vote Spreads to House

Source: By Billy House and Erik Wasson, Bloomberg • Posted: Friday, October 23, 2020

Nancy Pelosi at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 22. 

Nancy Pelosi at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 22.  Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

Pelosi told some members of House Democratic leadership in a call Thursday that some of the party’s lawmakers have told her they don’t want to come back to the Capitol for a vote before Nov. 3 if the Senate isn’t ready to act, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

The development added a new wrinkle just as Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are trying to finalize a deal after a months-long impasse.

Pelosi said Thursday she and Mnuchin were nearing agreement on how to allocate money for testing and tracing to safely reopen schools and the economy, a central element for the speaker in the talks. She said they still haven’t settled three of the main sticking points: Democrats’ demands for aid to state and local governments, school funding and Republican insistence on a liability shield for employers.

Pelosi and Mnuchin were scheduled to talk by phone again Thursday, though Pelosi said they were waiting to hear from the heads of committees that would be drawing up a bill on some of the details. “That hasn’t happened yet,” she said Thursday afternoon.

“We continue to be engaged in negotiations, and I am hopeful we will be able to reach an agreement,” Pelosi said at a news conference Thursday. She said earlier on MSNBC that it “would be my hope” to get fiscal stimulus finished by the Nov. 3 election, but she pointed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s publicly expressed opposition to the spending levels under discussion.

Senate Republicans remain the ultimate roadblock to enacting a roughly $2 trillion deal being negotiated by Pelosi and Mnuchin. McConnell has made no promises on when the Senate might take up any compromise agreement, and some senior GOP lawmakers expressed skepticism whether the chamber would vote on one, even after the election.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama said he’s among Republicans in the chamber who have been frustrated by the lack of details they’ve gotten from Mnuchin about the talks.

“A lot of the top line he is talking about is big — but we haven’t seen anything,” Shelby said, expressing doubt that a stimulus could be finished before the election. “I think it’s about two minutes to midnight, and we’re not going to pass anything until we see the particulars.”

He said that while a pre-election vote is possible, it’s “probably not going to happen.”

Funding for state and local governments, a key issue dividing Democrats and Republicans going back to the summer, was singled out by both sides as a remaining challenge. Trump and his allies have characterized large-scale aid to local authorities as an effort to bail out poorly run, Democratic states.

“There are still significant policy differences between the two teams,” White House National Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow said on Fox Business. The Democratic stimulus bill “needs to be amended significantly more,” he said. “The clock is ticking.”