- The Washington Times - Friday, September 25, 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin restarted talks for a bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill on Friday.

Drew Hammill, Mrs. Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, confirmed on Twitter that the two spoke over the phone and plan to continue their conversation in the next few days.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the White House won’t accept any $2.5 trillion or $3 trillion offers.

“Best thing I can say to you is, and I spoke to Secretary Mnuchin a little while ago, there’s a lot of conversations which is good, but there’s no agreement yet,” he told reporters. “We want some targeted assistance plans.”

Negotiations for a fifth coronavirus relief bill collapsed last month after Democrats and White House negotiators were unable to reach a compromise on state and local funding, an extension for enhanced unemployment, and an overall price tag for the package.

There were a few attempts to restart talks at the end of August, but things remained stalled. Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, and Mr. Mnuchin shifted their focus to getting a government spending bill through Congress before the end of September.

The renewed effort in negotiations comes as rank-and-file members of Congress ramp up their demands for new coronavirus relief, particularly those facing difficult reelection fights.

Though a handful of bills and proposals have been put forward, nothing has successfully passed either chamber since the House passed its $3.4 trillion package in May.

On Thursday, Democrats began considering another COVID-19 relief bill that would serve as their best offer to Republicans.

With a price tag potentially around $2.2 or 2.4 trillion, the package is expected to include new funds for the small business Paycheck Protection Program, another round of direct payments, and relief for airlines and restaurants.

However, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters that Democrats are still holding out hope that a deal can be reached with Republicans before they have to put their own bill up for a vote.

“I don’t have an expectation at this point in time [for a vote] because our focus is we want to get a deal or an agreement with Mnuchin and the Senate because we want a bill passed and signed so that’s what our focus is, trying to get an agreement before we go home,” the Maryland Democrat said.

“We’re really focused on trying to get a negotiated deal. The reason being that a message bill is one thing, but we want to get something signed so people get money,” he added. “Secretary Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi have gotten a deal four times, you know, we ought to be able to do it a fifth.”

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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