House Democratic leaders scrambled Wednesday for a cohesive legislative and political strategy on emergency coronavirus aid.
The Democrats are seeking a bill that can provide broad-based relief to struggling Americans, energize the party’s progressive base ahead of November and appease the various factions of the caucus now feuding over the right path forward.
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi seeks to put pressure on GOP in COVID-19 relief battle On The Money: Pelosi says House will stay in session until stimulus deal is reached | GOP short of votes on Trump’s controversial Fed pick | WTO rules Trump tariffs on Chinese goods illegal Democratic lawmakers call for an investigation into allegations of medical neglect at Georgia ICE facility MORE (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerCoons beats back progressive Senate primary challenger in Delaware Pelosi seeks to put pressure on GOP in COVID-19 relief battle OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to ‘forever chemicals’ MORE (D-Md.) huddled in Pelosi’s office in the Capitol. Afterward, Pelosi spoke by phone with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinHillicon Valley: TikTok, Oracle seek Trump’s approval as clock winds down | Hackers arrested for allegedly defacing U.S. websites after death of Iranian general | 400K people register to vote on Snapchat TikTok, Oracle seek Trump’s approval as clock ticks down Dems discussing government funding bill into February MORE, who has led the stimulus negotiations for the administration, revealing that gears are moving even as the impasse persists.
Hoyer emerged from the earlier meeting promoting Pelosi’s preferred strategy: negotiate with the White House and bring a bill to the floor only when a bipartisan deal has been reached.
Yet that design is sure to rattle the Democrats who want assurances of a fresh vote on some version of coronavirus aid this month even absent an agreement with Republicans — a promise leadership has declined to make.
Centrist Democrats are leading that charge, but even some liberals are piling on, calling for a vote on legislation in the range of $2.2 trillion — Pelosi’s latest offer to the White House — to send the message to voters that Democrats aren’t sitting idle while the pandemic ravages the economy and continues to kill more than 1,000 Americans a day.
“That, to me, is a compromise that addresses the needs that we have at the scale that it needs to be addressed,” progressive Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarLarry Kudlow defends response to coronavirus: Trump ‘led wisely’ The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind – Woodward book revelations rock Washington The Memo: Woodward revelations deepen Trump troubles MORE (D-Minn.) told reporters outside the Capitol.
Stirring the debate, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn’t think he could’ve done more to stop virus spread Conservative activist Lauren Witzke wins GOP Senate primary in Delaware Trump defends claim coronavirus will disappear, citing ‘herd mentality’ MORE stunned Washington Wednesday morning when he pressed Republicans on Capitol Hill to seek “much higher” levels of funding in the next emergency package — a message that Pelosi reiterated to Mnuchin during their phone call a few hours later.
Senate Republicans had initially offered a $1.1 trillion package in emergency aid, but subsequently voted on a proposal providing just $650 billion — including just $350 billion in new funding. Trump, joining the Democrats, said it wasn’t enough.
“Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!),” Trump tweeted.
It was unclear what higher number the president is ready to accept, but his shifting position quickly energized Democrats, who have hammered the Republicans for pushing “emaciated” proposals they deem insufficient to address the health and economic crises caused by the pandemic.
“We look forward to hearing from the President’s negotiators that they will finally meet us halfway with a bill that is equal to the massive health and economic crises gripping our nation,” Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Health Care: Schumer calls for Azar to resign over ‘chaos’ in coronavirus response CNBC’s Cramer calls Pelosi ‘crazy Nancy’ in live interview Schumer calls for Azar to resign over ‘chaos’ in coronavirus response MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement.
GOP leaders, meanwhile, were pushing back, warning that a funding package in the $1.5 trillion range would likely lose support from a significant number of Republicans.
“We’d have to see what’s in it, but I think it’s difficult,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse GOP slated to unveil agenda ahead of election How Trump’s false attacks on mail-in voting could backfire on him Hillicon Valley: Election officials prepare for new Russian interference battle | ‘Markeyverse’ of online fans helps take down a Kennedy | GOP senators unveil bill to update tech liability protections MORE (R-Calif.), the minority leader.
Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP ramps up attacks on Democrats over talk of nixing filibuster On The Money: Pelosi says House will stay in session until stimulus deal is reached | GOP short of votes on Trump’s controversial Fed pick | WTO rules Trump tariffs on Chinese goods illegal GOP short of votes on Trump’s controversial Fed pick MORE (R-S.D.), the majority whip, also saw red flags.
“If the number gets too high, anything that got passed in the Senate will be passed mostly with Democrat votes and a handful of Republicans,” Thune told reporters in the Capitol. “So it’s going to have to stay in a, sort of, realistic range if … we want to maximize, optimize the number of Republican senators that will vote for it.”
Pelosi, meanwhile, is sticking with her last offer: $2.2 trillion, noting that that figure represents a $1.2 trillion reduction in the HEROES Act, which the House passed in May. She added that she has no intention of staging a vote on legislation if it lacks the bipartisan support to win Trump’s signature.
“We could put a bill on the floor, but we want to put a bill on the floor that will become law,” Pelosi said in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.
Front-line Democrats, those facing the toughest reelections this fall, have been begging leadership to get back to the negotiating table and strike a deal with the White House or pass a smaller package that would be more palatable to Senate Republicans.
The leader of the moderate Blue Dog Democrats, Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyBank lobbying group launches ad backing Collins reelection bid House Democrats call on State Department for information on Uighur prisoner Ekpar Asat Lawmakers weigh in on role of private equity firms in economic recovery MORE (D-Fla.), voiced frustration with leadership’s inaction and pointed to the “anxiousness” of vulnerable members.
“I am hopeful that as leadership registers the anxiousness of the members, both Democrats and Republicans to get something done, that they will be responsive to that,” she said.
“We can argue about what the specifics of a plan should look like,” she added. “But the important thing is that we get back to the negotiating table and hammer out a deal that can be passed into law.”