Trump Says No Virus-Bill Deal With Pelosi Despite Lengthy Talks
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said House Democrats aren’t giving enough in negotiations on legislation to help Americans deal with the spreading coronavirus outbreak, dashing hopes on both sides that a deal was imminent.
“We just don’t think they’re giving enough,” Trump said at a White House news conference. “We thought we had something but all of a sudden they didn’t agree to certain things they agreed to.”
The president didn’t specify what he objected to in the legislation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will pass legislation on Friday whether or not Trump agrees.
After two days of negotiations between Pelosi and Trump’s Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, members of both parties had expressed optimism about agreeing on a package of measures that includes providing free testing for the coronavirus, aid for workers who don’t get paid leave when they are ill or have to take care of a sick family member, and extending unemployment insurance.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said separately in a letter to colleagues that the bill “incorporates nearly all of what the administration and Republicans have requested.”
The bill was still being modified Friday afternoon and House Republicans held a conference call before Trump spoke to discuss the plan. GOP lawmakers are wary of moving ahead without Trump’s blessing, so his remarks threaten to scuttle chances of getting bipartisan support for the legislation.
Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke 10 times on Friday, including a conversation as the president was speaking, according to the speaker’s office. They also had repeated exchanges on Thursday to negotiate the legislation.
Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal said early Friday that the bill would contain language “based upon what we believe were agreements.”
Details of the economic relief legislation haven’t been released. Pelosi, in an email to House Democrats, said the plan will include free coronavirus testing, 14 days of paid sick leave, increased funds for Medicaid, and enhanced unemployment benefits and food aid. But it gave few details.
Pelosi said Friday that the most important parts of the bill “are testing, testing, testing.”
House Republican Kevin Hern of Oklahoma called on Pelosi to skip next week’s planned recess and keep the chamber in session to continue negotiations on a bipartisan bill.
“When the president declares our country to be in a state of emergency, we do not abandon our posts and return home,” Hern said. “The Senate has already called off their state work period next week and is keeping the senators in D.C. to continue coronavirus negotiations.”
A Republican official familiar with the talks said negotiators have agreed to limit the duration of relief in the bill to the outbreak without creating new permanent entitlements, health provisions have been targeted to the COVID-19 virus rather than unrelated treatments, and provisions to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion known as the “Hyde amendment” have been restored.
The proposed aid to states via Medicaid would also be reduced from the original 8 percentage point boost in the federal match to 6.2 points, the person said.
The spread of the virus in the U.S. has prompted state and local governments to close schools and, in some cases, restrict gatherings of large numbers of people in any venue. Professional sports leagues and college teams have suspended play.
That is further squeezing the economy along with slowdowns worldwide as financial markets slide. The S&P 500 rose more than 9% Friday, providing some respite after stocks’ worst day since 1987, as Trump declared a national emergency to help combat the virus.
Mnuchin said he’s also beginning talks with Trump and congressional leaders about the need to address a “short-term liquidity issue” with U.S. airlines. “We’ll be coming very quickly back on issues dealing with the airline industry,” Mnuchin said.
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