Pelosi announces deal with White House on coronavirus relief package

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that Democrats have reached a coronavirus stimulus deal with the White House Friday — on a day full of breaking news as the national government raced to contain a deadly new pandemic.

Capping off days of marathon talks and confused messaging that changed by the hour, Pelosi said that House Democrats will move ahead with a vote Friday evening on their plan to help Americans weather the economic effects of COVID-19, NBC reported. The announcement from the speaker came suddenly, just a short while after President Donald Trump appeared to snub the plan as insufficient while declaring a national emergency.

We are proud to have reached an agreement with the Administration to resolve outstanding challenges, and now will soon pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Pelosi has a deal

Pelosi spent much of Thursday and Friday in marathon talks with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to hammer out an economic relief package, as Americans begin to feel the financial fall-out of a new global pandemic. With cases of the coronavirus piling up, Americans are being sent home from work — some permanently. Meanwhile, the stock market is careening up and down, and airlines are suffering. At this point, speculation of recession is unnecessary — the country is looking for immediate help.

But uncertainty continued to hover over the stimulus plan all day Friday. In a sign of just how crazy the negotiations were, the speaker and Mnuchin spoke thirteen times on Friday alone. Even the time of the vote was unclear, but Pelosi swore that one would be held, deal or no deal. Now, after days of wild ups and down, Pelosi has struck a compromise — and not a day too soon.

The package will include free coronavirus testing, two weeks of paid sick leave, paid family leave, and boosts to unemployment insurance and programs like food stamps. President Donald Trump, just hours after appearing to give the bill a thumbs-down, is now expected to provide his blessing.

President Trump has repeatedly insisted on a payroll tax holiday, an idea that has received a chilly reception from fiscal hawks in the GOP and from Democrats who are laser-focused on expanding entitlements. It appears that this bill will not include the policy. But a third coronavirus bill — the first being an $8.3 billion plan to fight the virus itself — could be coming soon.

Wild negotiations

In contrast to the profundity of the crisis, the negotiations had been clouded by confusion and partisan bickering — which itself came against the background of a messaging war, as Republicans and Democrats jockey to take control of the crisis. Republicans were not satisfied with some of the Democrats’ initial proposals, and Democrats made some concessions, backpedaling on language that Republicans said would allow federal funding for abortions and also on what Republicans had called a permanent paid leave policy.

As of Friday afternoon, there was no clear sign that Republicans were on board, and Trump himself certainly wasn’t. At a press conference in the Rose Garden, the president declared a national emergency and said that he would be releasing billions of dollars to help states and localities fight the virus. Concerning the stimulus plan, he used the words “not enough.”

The back-to-back press conferences on Friday seemed to reflect the government’s divided response, as Trump and Pelosi both sought to portray strength in hard times to the American people. It looked for a moment like Trump had the upper hand, and that Pelosi’s promises of an immediate vote were just a bit of posturing.

Cracking down on COVID-19

But it looks like they’re both coming out winners, in some sense. Pelosi has her bill, and Trump, by declaring a national emergency, may be able to bat back criticism that he hasn’t taken the crisis seriously enough. The president announced a range of other measures on Friday, including a waiver on interest for student loans.

“Through a very collective action and shared sacrifice, national determination, we will overcome the threat of the virus,” Trump said.

If the House does vote on Friday, then the Senate could take it up on Monday, NBC noted.

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