Economic

White House’s line on economic aid descends deeper into incoherence

It was six days ago when Donald Trump, after weeks of confusing and contradictory messages, announced that he was pulling the plug on bipartisan talks on an economic aid package. White House officials said the process was over and negotiations would not begin anew before the elections.

It was four days ago when the president, realizing he’d “messed up tactically,” began calling for renewed talks on economic aid.

And it was three days ago when Trump told Rush Limbaugh that his newest position was the opposite of the one he’d held earlier in the week.

“I would like to see a bigger stimulus package than, frankly, either the Democrats or the Republicans are offering,” Trump said on an appearance of the Rush Limbaugh Show on Friday, acknowledging it was “the exact opposite” of his initial demands.

I realize that the president doesn’t generally keep up on current events, but when he mentioned the package “Republicans are offering,” he was referring to the proposal floated by his own White House. It’s his own team that’s responsible for making the “offer,” which in turn created an awkward dynamic: Trump effectively told Limbaugh that he’s against Team Trump’s plan.

While the president was delivering that message, his team was extending a new pitch to congressional Democrats: a $1.8 trillion aid package, well below the $2.4 trillion package House Democrats recently approved, and roughly half the $3.4 trillion proposal Democrats pushed several months ago.

Trump told Fox News yesterday that GOP lawmakers are fully on board with the $1.8 trillion offer. That wasn’t even close to being true: Senate Republicans actually wasted little time letting the White House know they’re staunchly opposed to the latest proposal, as are House Democrats. In fact, if Trump’s comments to Limbaugh were sincere, even he’s against his own

In economic relief talks, White House and Democrats continue trading proposals, insults

At the White House, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany confirmed that the administration had offered Pelosi an approximately $1.6 trillion package, much higher than many congressional Republicans would be able to support.

“It’s a good offer but it’s one Nancy Pelosi is not interested in,” McEnany said.

“Nancy Pelosi is not being serious. If she becomes serious then we can have a discussion,” McEnany said.

For her part, Pelosi (D-Calif.) criticized the GOP’s proposals as too stingy, contending that the administration is focused on protecting tax breaks for the wealthy instead of help for families and children in need. House Democrats had initially sought a $3.4 trillion spending package before bring the package down to around $2.2 trillion.

“This isn’t half a loaf, this is the heel of the loaf,” Pelosi said on Bloomberg TV of the White House proposal.

Nevertheless, Pelosi and Mnuchin were set to have another conversation Thursday afternoon, a day after they met in person for 90 minutes at the Capitol on Wednesday. The Wednesday meeting was their first in-person discussion since bipartisan coronavirus relief talks collapsed in early August.

Congress is set to adjourn at the end of this week through the election, but before they do Pelosi and Mnuchin are making one last try at a deal. They remained far apart and seemed almost to be forecasting failure, but talks continued and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he was hopeful it would lead to something.

“I’d like to see another rescue package,” McConnell said. “We’ve been trying for months to get there. I wish them well.”

While the talks continued, Democrats moved to press ahead with their own plan. Pelosi said she hoped for a House vote later Thursday on Democrats’ new $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill.

Republicans strongly oppose the bill. Democratic

House Democrats prepare to vote on new economic relief bill even as Pelosi and Mnuchin keep talking

“We’re going to give it one more serious try to get this done and I think we’re hopeful that we can get something done,” Mnuchin said. “I think there is a reasonable compromise here … It’s something the president very much wants to get done.”

It was unclear, however, if a deal could emerge in time. The House is set to adjourn within days through the election.

In absence of a deal, House Democratic leaders were preparing to move forward as soon as Wednesday with a vote on their $2.2 trillion bill, which is a slimmed-down version of the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act the House passed in May.

It includes new stimulus checks, unemployment insurance, state and local aid, and money for schools, the Postal Service, election security and more. There is also payroll assistance for airlines that are facing the prospect of widespread furloughs as soon as Thursday unless a new aid package is passed.

Republicans oppose the bill as too costly and say it contains provisions extraneous to the coronavirus.

“This will be nothing more than fiddling while Rome burns,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said Wednesday morning as the House Rules Committee met to agree on rules to debate the legislation.

“We have to move forward because some may be content with doing nothing but we aren’t,” said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).

Pelosi has been under intense pressure from moderates in her caucus, including some in tough re-election fights, to take new action to address the continued economic and public health ravages of the coronavirus.

However she has shown little sign she’s willing to back down from her $2.2 trillion price tag, with Democrats contending they’ve already compromised. On a private call with House Democrats Wednesday morning, Pelosi said the American people are worth the $2.2

Economic relief talks between White House, Pelosi suddenly resume as House Democrats make new offer

The two have negotiated extensively this year on economic relief bills. They initially found success but have been at odds in recent months, and talks have repeatedly broken down. They are running out of time to reach an agreement before the November election, but their planned talks this week appear to be their most extensive engagement in more than a month.

Democrats described their new offer as an updated version of the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act the House passed in May, which the White House and Senate Republicans dismissed as far too costly. Senate Republicans and Mnuchin have also said $2.2 trillion is too much to spend, but Mnuchin has said he is open to negotiations. It was not immediately clear whether the talks would bear fruit or whether Democratic leaders would use the bill to provide political cover for moderate House Democrats, who have grown increasingly anxious over Congress’s recent inaction on pandemic relief legislation.

As the pandemic worsened earlier this year and many businesses shut down, Congress passed four bipartisan bills in March and April that pumped close to $3 trillion into the economy. But they have not passed an economic relief law since then. Talks involving Mnuchin and Pelosi collapsed in early August and, before now, had shown little sign of reviving.

Mnuchin has said his priorities in a new round of spending would be aid for small businesses and children, among others. He has also talked about providing more assistance to the airline industry and approving another round of stimulus checks. There is some overlap in the White House’s goals with the things Democrats included in their new bill.

For example, the Democrats’ bill would extend the $32 billion payroll support program for the airline industry, which is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, threatening tens