Pelosi gives White House 48-hour ultimatum to agree on rescue package
Washington, Oct 18 (efe-epa).- The speaker of the US House of Representatives, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, on Sunday gave the White House 48 hours to reach an agreement on a new economic stimulus package aimed at mitigating the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The 48 (hours) only relates to if we want to get it done before the election, which we do,” Pelosi said in an interview with ABC News.
“We’re saying to them, we have to freeze the design on some of these things – are we going with it or not and what is the language? I’m optimistic, because again we’ve been back and forth on all this,” she added.
When asked by reporters if Americans will receive any stimulus payments before the Nov. 3 election, Pelosi said that although she is optimistic that an agreement will be reached, “that depends on the administration.”
“We’re seeking clarity,” Pelosi said, accusing the White House of watering down the bill’s language on testing and tracing and adding that the administration officials drafting the legislation are “not legislators.”
“They changed shall to may, requirements to recommendations, a plan to a strategy, not a strategic plan. They took out 55 percent of the language that we had there for testing and tracing,” Pelosi said of the negotiations that have dragged on for months amid a steadily rising number of coronavirus cases and renewed measures to try and contain the virus.
Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, wrote on Twitter that the speaker and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had spoken by telephone for an hour about the stimulus package.
“While there was some encouraging news on testing, there remains work to do to ensure … additional measures to address the virus’ disproportionate impact on communities of color,” tweeted Hammill.
He said that a number of differences remain between the House and the administration that have to be gone through clause by clause within the next 48 hours, adding that the White House must make decisions to show that it is serious about reaching a bipartisan agreement.
The White House and congressional Democrats have been holding talks for months with an eye toward agreeing on the features of a new stimulus package, after the one approved last March for $2.2 trillion, the largest in US history.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “has said he would not put a potential $1.8 trillion-plus deal struck by Democrats and the Trump administration on the Senate floor,” according to Axios.
However, given the inability to reach agreement so far, McConnell on Saturday announced two votes in the upper chamber of Congress this coming week regarding two bills presented by GOP lawmakers.
On Tuesday, a vote will be held on a bill to finance the Payroll Protection Program, including in the stimulus package approved in March but which expired in August.
That program allowed small businesses to receive federal government loans, which could be granted if worker payrolls were maintained at a certain level.
On Wednesday, McConnell wants to bring to a vote the new $500 billion economic stimulus plan crafted by Republicans, which the Democrats blocked last month, although it is improbable that it will receive sufficient support to pass.
Trump last week encouraged lawmakers to reach an agreement before the Nov. 3 election, suggesting that Mnuchin should go farther than the current White House proposal of $1.8 trillion, despite the fact that GOP senators reject increasing that amount of funding.