Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top White House officials said on Wednesday that they were continuing to narrow their differences on a sweeping stimulus plan to provide pandemic relief to struggling Americans and businesses, even as the California Democrat conceded that a bipartisan deal might not be possible before the Nov. 3 election.
A nearly one-hour conversation between Ms. Pelosi and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary brought the pair “closer to being able to put pen to paper to write legislation,” a spokesman for Ms. Pelosi said.
And Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said he was “still very hopeful and very optimistic that we’re making progress.”
But with time waning to cement an agreement that could be enacted in time for Election Day, both sides remained wary.
Mr. Meadows, who met with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, told reporters that lawmakers in his party had grown suspicious of Ms. Pelosi’s tactics and were “starting to get to a point where they believe that she is not negotiating in a fair and equitable manner.”
Ms. Pelosi said she remained upbeat about the prospects for a compromise, but allowed for the possibility that it would wait until after the election.
“I’m optimistic that there will be a bill,” she said in an interview on MSNBC. “It’s a question of, is it in time to pay the November rent, which is my goal, or is it going to be shortly thereafter and retroactive.”
Across the Capitol, Senate Democrats blocked a move by Republicans to advance a $500 billion plan that would revive lapsed federal unemployment benefits and a popular federal loan program for small businesses, as well as provide additional money for testing.
Democrats, who have argued the package falls far short of the level of aid needed, unanimously opposed it, and it fell short on a party-line vote of 51-44, failing to clear the 60-vote threshold required to move forward.
Mr. Meadows said earlier Wednesday that a call by Democrats for hundreds of billions of dollars more in federal aid for states and cities and their resistance to a liability shield for businesses remained the toughest obstacles to a bipartisan stimulus deal.
“The biggest issue remains state and local assistance,” Mr. Meadows said on the Fox Business Network. “That remains a stumbling block.”
The White House has proposed providing $250 billion to states and municipalities, Mr. Meadows said, while House Democrats have called for double that. He also said that the liability protections were a crucial priority for Republicans, and he chided Ms. Pelosi for resisting them, saying she was being “disingenuous” if she believed that his party would agree to any deal without them.
Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Mnuchin are expected to speak again on Thursday.
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