The possibility that the House could pass a Trump administration-approved coronavirus response package remains alive Friday, as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told CNBC Friday morning he was “very close” to hammering out a deal with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi’s spokesperson also said that Mnuchin and the Speaker had spoken Friday morning.
.@SpeakerPelosi & Secretary Mnuchin spoke briefly this morning by phone at 8:22 a.m.
— Drew Hammill (@Drew_Hammill) March 13, 2020
In a letter to Democratic House members Thursday evening, Pelosi described the proposals that are in the mix of the package she’s negotiating with the administration. They include free coronavirus testing, an increase in the federal government’s Medicaid spending, expanded food assistance, enhanced unemployment insurance, 14 days of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave.
She said she had secured an agreement that the administration pause its work requirements for certain food assistance programs and that, for the coronavirus testing, the House negotiators had also “defeated the Administration’s effort to impose burdensome income testing.”
“This evening, after much deliberation, we are near to a bipartisan agreement subject to an exchange of final legislative text,” Pelosi told her caucus Thursday night in the letter.
The House has not left Washington D.C., meaning that lawmakers could pass the package Friday if an agreement is finalized.
Whether and when the Senate would take up such legislation is a more open question. The Senate wrapped up its work week Thursday afternoon, and many members returned to their home states. They’re scheduled to return to the Capitol Monday evening, and in addition to the coronavirus response, the Senate also has to renew the law that allows for certain law enforcement surveillance.
Before they left Thursday, many Republican senators expressed skepticism of the House proposal and said that they wanted to write their own measure.
While on CNBC Friday morning, Mnuchin named Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) among the legislative leaders and administration officials he has been in contact with through the negotiations.
“I think we view this as, this is the second inning in a baseball game,” Mnuchin said, previewing other proposals he and lawmakers intended on negotiating after the current tentative measure is pushed through.