Nancy Pelosi said a stimulus package must be agreed within the next 48 hours if it is to be passed before the election, as the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives stepped up pressure on senior Republicans over help with coronaviruses.
Ms Pelosi will meet with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday as the two seek to resolve their differences over proposed relief measures which could amount to around $ 2 billion.
The couple have been negotiating for weeks the latest proposals, which seek to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and are likely to include an increase in unemployment benefits. The couple spoke for more than an hour on Saturday, after which Ms Pelosi said the two sides were still at odds over what the bill should say about testing and protecting minority communities.
She told ABC News on Sunday: “We don’t have a language agreement yet, but I’m hopeful.”
Referring to the 48-hour deadline originally mentioned by Drew Hammill, her deputy chief of staff on Saturday night, Ms Pelosi added: “The 48 is only about whether we want to do it before the election, which we are doing.”
“But we tell them, we have to freeze the design on some of these things. Are we going or not and what is the language? I’m optimistic because, once again, we’ve been going back and forth on all of this.
Donald Trump, the US president, issued an equally optimistic note on a stimulus deal in recent days, saying Thursday he was prepared to offer more than the $ 1.8 billion the White House advanced. Ms Pelosi wants to inject $ 2.2 billion into the economy and has passed a bill to that effect through the democratically controlled House of Representatives.
Meanwhile, the economic toll from the pandemic continues to rise, with unemployment figures last week showing nearly 900,000 people have made new claims for unemployment benefits. Many fear the economic situation will worsen over the winter, with growing numbers of new cases and hospitalizations suggesting a new wave of the disease is already engulfing the United States.
The main obstacle to a deal, however, remains Republicans in the Senate, who continue to push for a much smaller package.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican Majority Leader in the Senate, announced on Saturday that he would hold a vote this week on a smaller $ 500 billion bill, as well as a separate vote on a stand-alone check protection program payroll to help small businesses.
Mr. Mnuchin and Mark Meadows, chief of staff to the president, held a call with Republican senators last week to urge them to support the White House offer.
But they met with opposition. Lamar Alexander, the Republican senator from Tennessee, reportedly told them, “There is no appetite right now to spend the White House number or the House number.”