Americans “deserve a whole-of-government response that keeps them and their families safe,” Pelosi said.
Trump is scheduled to hold a news conference at 3 p.m. Friday, where he’ll declare a national emergency that would open the way for providing more federal money to states and cities as they deal with the spreading virus, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The president has yet to weigh in publicly on the legislation in Congress, other than to dismiss the original bill presented by Democrats earlier in the week as loaded with ideological “goodies.” Congressional Republicans are wary of getting behind a plan before knowing whether Trump goes along.
“It’s always good to hear what the president thinks,” Representative Tom Cole, a Republican member of the House appropriations Committee, said.
Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke eight times on Friday, according to the speaker’s office, after repeated exchanges on Thursday as they negotiated a compromise on legislation to guarantee sick leave for people infected by the novel coronavirus and provide testing and treatment.
Mnuchin said early on Friday that the two sides were “close to getting this done.”
Despite Mnuchin’s involvement in the negotiations, some Democrats remained unsure whether all Republicans were on board. Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal said early Friday that Democrats were largely ready to vote on the package and send it to the Senate for a vote, likely early next week.
Neal said the bill would contain language “based upon what we believe were agreements.” But Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan said finding out whether Republicans and the administration will actually support the bill is still up in the air. “We really won’t know until we pass this.”
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy didn’t comment as he entered the Capitol Friday afternoon. House Republicans are set to hold a conference call before Trump speaks.
Trump has remained the wild card in the negotiations. He’s scuttled agreements in the past. He continued to push for a payroll tax cut on Friday, saying on Twitter that was the way to go “if you want to get money into the hands of people quickly & efficiently.” But that faces bipartisan skepticism in Congress, and any action on that wouldn’t come until later.
Details of the economic relief legislation haven’t been released. Pelosi, in an email to House Democrats, said the plan will include free coronavirus testing, 14 days of paid sick leave, increased funds for Medicaid, and enhanced unemployment benefits and food aid. But it gave few details.
Pelosi said Friday that the most important parts of the bill “are testing, testing, testing.”
A Republican official familiar with the negotiations said they are expecting the legislation to reflect changes that deal with GOP concerns about the Democrats’ earlier proposal.
Negotiators have agreed to limit the duration of relief in the bill to the outbreak without creating new permanent entitlements, health provisions have been targeted to the COVID-19 virus rather than unrelated treatments, and provisions to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion known as the “Hyde amendment” have been restored, according to the person.
The proposed aid to states via Medicaid would also be reduced from the original 8 percentage point boost in the federal match to 6.2 points, the person said.
“I know there will be a bill on the floor by the end of the day,” Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey said. “This is not a partisan issue. And I would hope that everyone could vote for this even though it may not be perfect.”
The spread of the virus in the U.S. has prompted state and local governments to close schools and, in some cases, restrict gatherings of large numbers of people in any venue. Professional sports leagues and college teams have suspended play.
That is further squeezing the economy along with slowdowns worldwide as financial markets slide. The S&P 500 traded about 4% higher at 1:30 p.m. Washington time Friday after plunging 9.5% on Thursday in the biggest rout since 1987 and fifth-worst on record.
Mnuchin said he’s also beginning talks with Trump and congressional leaders about the need to address a “short-term liquidity issue” with U.S. airlines. “We’ll be coming very quickly back on issues dealing with the airline industry,” Mnuchin said.
--With assistance from Laura Davison, Laura Litvan and Jack Fitzpatrick.
To contact the reporters on this story: Billy House in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org;Steven T. Dennis in Washington at email@example.com
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