Stimulus talks: Negotiations continue on bill for unemployment benefits, $1,200 checks

Despite having passed her 48-hour self-imposed deadline, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that negotiations on a COVID-19 stimulus relief bill will continue.

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Pelosi, D-California, along with Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, have both said they will continue discussions on Wednesday based on how far the negotiations have gotten.

“Our conversation provided more clarity and common ground as we move closer to an agreement,” Pelosi said in a letter to House Democrats Tuesday evening.

“Since Sunday, we have been making some progress in setting forth areas of agreement and disagreement in order to decide how we can reach a compromise,” Pelosi wrote.

“Today, Secretary Mnuchin and I spoke at 3 p.m. Our conversation provided more clarity and common ground as we move closer to an agreement. Today’s deadline enabled us to see that decisions could be reached and language could be exchanged, demonstrating that both sides are serious about finding a compromise.”

Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke for around 45 minutes on Tuesday. The two have been discussing a fifth stimulus package for the American people some seven months after the economy was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The package could include a $1,200 direct payment to more than 180 million Americans and federal unemployment benefits to millions who lost their jobs or are furloughed because of the virus.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, on Tuesday told Republicans that he has warned the White House not to divide GOP Senate members by sealing a $2 trillion relief deal with Pelosi prior to the November election, The Associated Press reported.

McConnell made his remarks during a private lunch with fellow Republicans on Tuesday, according to AP, who said three people familiar with the remarks passed them along on the condition of anonymity.

McConnell said the Senate will vote on a $500 billion coronavirus stimulus package on Wednesday. That bill, which does not include $1,200 direct payment checks for Americans, will not likely get the votes needed to pass.

On Tuesday, the chamber went on record in favor of another round of payroll subsidies for businesses such as restaurants and hotels. The bill would put additional money into the Paycheck Protection Program.

Around $134 billion earmarked for the program went unspent. The program’s lending authority expired Aug. 8.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, told reporters over the weekend that planned Senate votes this week were “a stunt,” and that the $500 billion package under consideration is “not gonna bring any relief to the American people.”

While many Republicans in the Senate have made known their opposition to another massive relief package, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows signaled that talks would continue in the hopes that a bill around $2 trillion could be hammered out by this weekend.

Meadows told CNBC Tuesday that the sides have made “good progress” but “still have a ways to go” before an agreement could be reached.

“I would think that those discussions hopefully would make progress again tomorrow (Wednesday) and perhaps the following day,” Meadows said, adding that he hopes to see “some kind of agreement before the weekend.”