Negotiations between House Democrats and the White House on a second coronavirus stimulus package for Americans who are struggling to stay afloat have been stalled for weeks.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows signaled a possible move toward restarting talks when he told Politico on Wednesday that his staff has reached out to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff.
But even on that point, there is disagreement.
“We’ve reached out,” Meadows told Politico Playbook on Wednesday. “I actually had my staff reach out again yesterday to Speaker Pelosi’s chief of staff to say that we haven’t heard anything from her. … The president wants [a deal], but I’m not optimistic.”
He added that he thinks Pelosi “is going to hold out until the end of September and try to get what she wants in the funding for the government during the [continuing resolution] or whatever funding mechanism happens to come up at the end of September.”
But Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hamill, said Meadows’ staff did not directly ask for more negotiations in a text message, only that they asked if Pelosi’s team had the correct phone number. Meadows said on ABC News’ “This Week” that he would contact Pelosi last Sunday, but Hamill said he never did.
“Democrats have compromised in these negotiations,” Hamill told Fox News. “We offered to come down $1 trillion if the White House would come up $1 trillion. We welcome the White House back to the negotiating table but they must meet us halfway.”
The House passed a $3 trillion, 1,800-page HEROES Act in May — more than 100 days ago — that would include $1,200 checks for all Americans and undocumented immigrants, $25 billion in additional funding for the U.S. Postal Service and $600-per-week unemployment benefits.
The HEROES Act is the most expensive piece of legislation ever passed since President Trump signed the bipartisan $2 trillion CARES Act in March, which allocated $1,200 checks to all Americans.
Senate Republicans introduced the $1 trillion HEALS Act — which would also include $1,200 checks — in July, but they are working to release a new, scaled-back proposal of the legislation that would not include stimulus checks but would include $10 billion in for the U.S. Postal Service and $300 weekly unemployment benefits, Politico reported earlier this month.
Meadows also indicated that the White House is interested in providing aid to airlines.
“I talked to … United, American and Delta, all three of them. And any time that you can keep employers with employees not being furloughed or laid off is a good thing. And so we’ve raised this issue. It would take a CARES package, I believe, to do it,” he told Politico.
Senators return from recess on Sept. 8 and representatives on Sept. 14. Congress has until Sept. 30 to propose a budget plan for fiscal year 2021.
Fox News’ Caroline McKee contributed to this report.