House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Shen/Xinhua via Getty Images
Some Democrats are urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take the White House’s $1.8 trillion stimulus deal.
“We’re not that far apart and the last few things should be negotiated — we should be able to get something done,” Rep. Ro Khanna of California said in an interview.
Khanna and Andrew Yang are among the few Democrats who have called for Pelosi to take the deal to try to get federal relief out the door quickly.
But others say Senate Republicans pose a significant hurdle to a deal.
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The Trump administration on Friday made a $1.8 trillion stimulus offer to Democrats that contained another round of direct payments and $400 weekly federal unemployment benefits, among other measures. It was swiftly rejected, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly blasted the administration’s plan as inadequate, most recently in a contentious CNN interview.
Negotiations on another relief bill between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are ongoing as President Donald Trump continues calling on Republicans to embrace a large economic-aid package.
Yet some Democrats are urging Pelosi to accept the White House’s stimulus offer to try to get federal aid out the door as fast as possible. Nearly 26 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits nearly seven months into the pandemic. Many small businesses, particularly restaurants, are at risk of bankruptcy without more government assistance.
Those Democrats include Rep. Ro Khanna of California, who warned of mounting hardship among average Americans.
“People in my district are hurting. I represent one of the most affluent districts in the country, and we have food banks at middle schools with thousands of people showing up,” Khanna, a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Business Insider. “I have immigrant families at risk of losing their restaurants and businesses they’ve built for 30 years.”
Khanna added: “We need to get people help and relief. We’re not that far apart and the last few things should be negotiated — we should be able to get something done.”
Khanna and Andrew Yang, a onetime presidential candidate, are both among the few Democrats who publicly called on Pelosi to accept the White House plan.
“It’s infuriating that it’s October and so many Americans are still waiting on a relief bill that should have been passed months ago,” Yang said recently on CNN.
Some areas of consensus do exist between the White House and Democrats. Both sides want $1,200 direct payments and small-business aid. They dispute how much funding should be included for federal unemployment benefits and virus testing and tracing.
But they’re still far apart on other areas, like childcare and tax credits for low-income people. Democrats also say the administration hasn’t incorporated a national testing strategy in its plan, something Khanna also wants to see.
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Senate Republicans form a big hurdle to a coronavirus relief deal
But any agreement reached between Democrats and the White House needs to garner support from Senate Republicans. At least a dozen senators are reluctant to back any additional relief spending, citing the growing budget deficit.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday he was setting the stage for a vote on a $500 billion aid package, which will contain federal unemployment benefits and small-business aid, among other initiatives.
Michael Linden, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive think tank, said a bipartisan agreement with the White House wouldn’t necessarily increase pressure on McConnell to pass it, given significant opposition among GOP senators.
“The biggest point I keep trying to make is that just because the president has offered a deal, it doesn’t make it an actual deal,” Linden told Business Insider. “This feels like a point that is just completely hand-waved away by people who seem to think if Pelosi and the president agree in principle to some deal, it either becomes law or has enough weight to put McConnell in a bind, and I don’t buy that at all.”
“To me, the case for a deal is the economy actually needs more stimulus,” he said. “A symbolic agreement between Pelosi and the White House does not deliver that.”
Dan Pfeiffer, the former communications director to President Barack Obama, struck a different tone. He recently said a deal may no longer be on the table after Election Day, when the GOP’s political incentive to act is significantly reduced. Some embattled Republican senators like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina expressed support for a broad relief plan in recent weeks.
“Likely rejection by Senate Republicans is an argument for, not against, cutting a deal,” Pfeiffer wrote in a Substack blog post. “If Mitch McConnell and his half dozen or so vulnerable Republicans want to ignore or vote down a relief package, let them do it. And then Democrats can hammer the living daylights out them in ads and on the campaign trail.”
‘We need to get something done’
Pelosi defended her tough negotiating strategy in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday. The anchor displayed Khanna’s October 11 tweet pushing the speaker to accept the White House’s offer — and Pelosi swung back, saying he and Andrew Yang were not familiar with the proposal’s legislative details.
“Honest to God, I can’t get over it, because Andrew Yang, he’s lovely — Ro Khanna, he’s lovely,” Pelosi replied. “But they have no idea of the particulars. They have no idea of what the language is here.”
Khanna said he’s received text messages and phone calls from about 20 House Democrats across the ideological spectrum who expressed support for reaching a stimulus deal since the CNN interview. He said he had “complete confidence” in Pelosi’s negotiating abilities but reiterated a call for a compromise.
“She needs to hear from members in her own caucus about what they’re hearing on the ground, and that’s all I’m saying: We need to get something done,” he said. “The worst-case scenario is nothing gets done and we go into an election with people not having any relief, being totally disgusted by Washington and wondering how their political class has failed them.”
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