Politics & Policy

Pelosi Warms to Limited COVID Relief after Holding Out for $2 Trillion Package for Months

Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) responds to questions about the coronavirus pandemic and the presidential election at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., November 13, 2020. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated Friday that she is open to passing a $908 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief bill, after months of refusing to engage in negotiations pertaining to any relief bill smaller than the $2 trillion proposal Democrats offered.

Pelosi said she supported the less expensive bill even though “it’s not everything we want” and suggested her change in tone was due to President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory and his plan to fight the pandemic when he is sworn in in January. Democrats will likely push for more relief once Biden takes office, she said.

“Joe Biden committed to ending and crushing the virus,” Pelosi said. “That is a total game changer. A new president, and a vaccine.”

Pelosi also said that she and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discussed the possibility on Thursday of attaching coronavirus relief legislation to a government funding omnibus that must pass by December 11 to prevent a government shutdown.

“There is momentum. There is momentum,” Pelosi said. “The tone of our conversation is one that is indicative of a decision to get the job done.”

A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both chambers introduced the $908 billion relief plan earlier this week. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the proposed bill, which earned the support of several GOP senators, should be the starting point for negotiations going forward.

“Don’t characterize what we did before as a mistake,” Pelosi said, speaking of her prior refusal to consider a less expensive relief measure.

Talks on another stimulus bill to offset the economic damage of the pandemic remained sluggish for months before the election as differences persisted between House Democrats, Senate Republicans, and the Trump administration. Two of the biggest sticking points were how much supplemental unemployment insurance to provide as well as Democrats’ request to send more aid to states and localities. Conspicuously, the proposed relief measure will not include another round of $1200 direct payments to Americans.

At one point in October, the White House offered to support a nearly $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, less than the $2.2 trillion bill House Democrats passed earlier that month.

That same month, Pelosi sent the administration a list of concerns she had about a new stimulus bill and said she would “never give up hope” that a deal on a relief bill could be reached before the election.

President Trump meanwhile accused Pelosi of stalling on passing a relief bill before the election for political purposes.

“I’d like to see the people get the money. I don’t think she wants the people to get the money before the election. I don’t think that’s a good point for her,” Trump said.

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