Democrats, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), are signaling surrender in the battle over a massive coronavirus relief package, moving back to the bargaining table on the bipartisan Senate bill after a Monday stunt, which saw Pelosi announce her own competing relief bill packed with handouts to Democratic constituencies, fell flat.
Already by Monday evening, Schumer was back at the bargaining table, negotiating with White House officials, including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, deep into the night, even as Democratic activists insisted on social media that Pelosi’s bill — a 1,400-page monolith — would take precedence over the Senate’s bipartisan package.
The Washington Post reports that the White House agreed to some basic concessions, including an “inspector general” who could oversee what Democrats were inaccurately labeling a $500 billion “slush fund” of money, available to corporations hurting six months after the coronavirus shutdown ends, as low- and no-interest loans. The new bill will, reportedly, do away with “means testing” for coronavirus relief checks, extending help to even those who do not make enough to file a Federal tax return, and will increase the amount of money available to hospitals and other healthcare facilities, as reported by NBC News.
Schumer, who, just yesterday, was openly critical of the Senate bill, seemed willing to meet repeatedly with Mnuchin to hammer out some basic additions to satisfy his caucus. Schumer also seemed determined to save face, after Democrats met with swift and almost universal condemnation for their decision to sideline an extensive coronavirus relief plan at the behest of Speaker Pelosi, who had just returned from a recess and was absent from Congressional meetings on the subject.
The minority leader said in a speech Tuesday that the two sides have moved from the “5-yard line to the 2-yard line” on an agreement and that he sees no reason they cannot come to a deal on the Senate bill.
Pelosi was largely quiet Monday afternoon, as members of the media scoured her bill looking for improvements over the Senate package. Instead, investigators discovered handouts to select charter schools, the Kennedy Center, the United States Postal Service, wind and solar energy firms, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The bill also contained demands for Green New Deal-like regulations on airlines, a near-complete overhaul of voting systems, and a shot in the arm for struggling labor unions.
Tuesday morning, however, Pelosi signaled that she’s setting aside her bill as Democrats focus on negotiating the Senate’s package.
“The easiest way to do it is for us to put aside some of our concerns for another day, and get this done,” Pelosi told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “If it has poison pills in it, and they know certain things are poison pills, then they don’t want unanimous consent – they just want an ideological statement.”
She also expressed delight that negotiations were moving forward, even though she spent much of Monday condemning Republicans.
.@SpeakerPelosi on CNBC says admin agreed to oversight of Treasury $500 b fund to help impacted industries which she says is “big change” – “I’m optimistic” says bill more “worker oriented”
— Deirdre Walsh (@deirdrekwalsh) March 24, 2020
This is likely good news for Americans who have been waiting for some economic relief as the coronavirus lockdown continues to take its toll on industry. The most optimistic predictions from the Senate suggest a final bill could be on the table as early as Monday evening.