House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that a vote could still happen ahead of Election Day on a stimulus package to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, but signaled that work remains to get an agreement, write legislation and put it on the floor before November 3.
“If we can get an agreement, I think we can, but again we are legislators. We understand how long things take. It is not just a question of us agreeing in a room. … it takes time,” Pelosi said. “It can happen. It is really up to them.”
In private conversations, Pelosi has indicated to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the chief negotiator for the White House, that it would be her goal to hold a vote ahead of Election Day though there are still plenty of obstacles to a bill getting through both chambers of Congress anytime soon.
One aide familiar with the discussions told CNN that if a deal was reached, the expectation is that “it would come to the floor ASAP” for a vote in the Democratically controlled House.
But getting a deal still remains up in the air. An overall agreement is still not finished and it may not be reached in time for Election Day. The deal would have to be finished by the weekend in order to get a vote on the floor next week and Pelosi said Thursday that major issues remain outstanding from unemployment insurance to liability protections.
Republican aides also continue to worry that Mnuchin has given far more than Republicans are comfortable with in these negotiations. One GOP aide told CNN that there are questions on how the big things have been resolved or even if they have been. Republicans don’t know how Pelosi and Mnuchin have dealt with liability protections or other controversial issues like the Hyde amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds to finance abortions. While a topline for funding for distressed state and local governments is in the neighborhood of $300 billion, according to one GOP aide, no one knows how that funding is structured or what strings are attached. Pelosi also said Thursday, for example, it’s unclear if under such a deal is states can use it for revenue replacement, or just coronavirus-related expenses. The details are being very closely held with GOP leadership getting just periodic updates.
“I don’t see how this gets voted on before the election,” the GOP aide said.
Still, if a deal could be reached, a vote would give Pelosi an opportunity to put Republicans on the record in the House on a deal that President Donald Trump has said he badly wants.
Such a vote would also force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican up for reelection this cycle, to have to decide whether he would bring up the legislation in the Senate. McConnell said earlier this week he would consider any bill agreed to between Pelosi and Mnuchin that has the President’s support, but aides familiar say it’s unlikely McConnell would bring anything to the floor ahead of Election Day, especially if few Republicans in the House back the proposal.
Still if House Democrats passed the bill, it could create pressure on vulnerable Republicans in the Senate, where control of the chamber is up for grabs this fall. While some GOP senators have said that anything over $1.5 trillion is too much, other members – who are facing tough elections – have also been careful to dismiss a stimulus deal out of hand, fearing that it could potentially backfire in states where their voters are hurting.
“I certainly would not eliminate that possibility if the needs add up to that amount,” Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine in one of the toughest reelection races of the cycle, told CNN this week.
“I have to look at the provisions. It is one thing to appropriate, it is another thing to allow it to ultimately be spent,” Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican running for reelection in another close contest in North Carolina. “To me, I am less focused on the number than I am on the provisions.”