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Stimulus Talks Ongoing, Including Possibility of Compromise Bill, Despite Trump Cancellation

  • White House has reportedly said it is willing to consider a comprehensive bill after President Donald Trump pulled the plug on talks on this issue earlier this week
  • Significant differences over the cost and scope of new COVID-19 relief have stymied efforts to pass a bipartisan measure, despite common ground on several issues
  • Stock market buoyed by new hope over stimulus, but economists warn that a comprehensive measure – or even standalone relief bills – may not be approved

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are continuing negotiations on a comprehensive COVID-19 relief bill, despite President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to cancel these talks earlier this week. While this news has helped improve the stock market, which rose on indicators that the parties were approaching an agreement and plunged after Trump’s decision, uncertainties remain over whether a compromise bill or even any standalone relief bills might be approved in the near future.

Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke for 40 minutes on Thursday, with Mnuchin indicating that the Trump Administration would still be open to a larger bill supporting money for jobless benefits, airline aid, state and local funds, and other relief. The White House indicated that while it has generally favored a more narrow approach to new COVID-19 relief and would not be willing to accept a $2.2 trillion measure passed by House Democrats, it could still accept a larger figure than Republicans have previously floated.

Trump cut off talks on Tuesday, indicating that he was angered by Pelosi’s rejection of a $1.6 trillion proposal offered by Mnuchin. He later reversed course somewhat, saying he would support standalone bills for airline relief and renewed funding for the Paycheck Protection Program to support small businesses. On Thursday morning, he said earlier negotiations had not been working out but considered the revived ones to be “very productive.”

Some Democrats have indicated support for a piecemeal support for new COVID-19 relief, but they have largely opposed it due to concerns that this approach will not fully address the problems caused by the pandemic. Although she previously suggested that a standalone bill for airline aid might be necessary, Pelosi has since said she won’t support such a measure unless it is part of a larger package.

Significant hurdles remain as any compromise measure passed in the House must win enough support in the Senate, which has favored a skinnier approach to relief. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly advised Trump that any deal struck by Pelosi and Mnuchin would be unlikely to pass the Senate. However, a Goldman Sachs economist has also suggested that standalone bills may not fare much better, since lawmakers from both parties are likely to diminish the chances of their success by attaching additional measures to popular proposals like new PPP funding.

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