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Continued Negotiations Offer Narrow Possibility of COVID-19 Relief Deal

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are continuing negotiations on passing new COVID-19 relief bill
  • Hopes for bipartisan deal before November’s election dimmed after a proposal advanced by Senate Republicans failed to advance
  • Mnuchin advises that concerns about the deficit or Federal Reserve balance sheet should not inhibit relief

The House reconvened on Monday just days after a slimmed down COVID-19 relief bill was shot down in the Senate, raising doubts that a deal on further relief legislation can be reached before Election Day. Yet a narrow path toward a deal remains, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continue to negotiate at the same time that bipartisan and moderate groups work to craft proposals.

Appearing on CNBC, Mnuchin said he was willing to negotiate with Pelosi but also said he was “somewhat concerned” that Pelosi is afraid that any deal will give a boost to President Donald Trump’s re-election chances. Mnuchin was also critical of Republicans who have been reticent to approve further relief due to monetary concerns or the belief that the economy will recover enough to make more assistance unnecessary, saying it is not the time to focus on reducing the deficit or shrinking the Fed’s balance sheet.

Pelosi and Mnuchin have agreed that discussions on COVID relief will be kept separate from a government funding bill that must be passed by the end of the month to avoid a government shutdown, eliminating the possibility that relief measures could be yoked to the funding bill. Some groups in the House, namely the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus and the Blue Dog Coalition of moderate Democrats, have started efforts to create a bill that is acceptable to a majority of members in both parties.

Both Democrats and Republicans have advanced COVID relief proposals in Congress, and there is broad support for measures such as enhanced unemployment benefits and a renewal of the Paycheck Protection Program with a focus on providing funds for small businesses. However, the parties differ widely in how much money they are proposing to spend as well as their stance on certain controversial matters, such as whether funding should be extended to state and local governments to assist with revenue shortfalls exacerbated by the coronavirus.

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