WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top White House officials on Wednesday downplayed the possibility of more coronavirus relief, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi disparaged President Donald Trump for backing away from talks on a comprehensive deal.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters that “the stimulus negotiations are off,” echoing Trump’s announcement on Tuesday, and said in an interview on Fox News the administration backed a more piecemeal approach to help some sectors of the economy.
But in a separate interview with CNBC, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that approach would likely not work either.
“Right now in terms of the probability curve, this would probably be low low-probability stuff.”
On Tuesday evening, after having shut down the negotiations on a comprehensive coronavirus package during the day, Trump wrote on Twitter that Congress should pass money for airlines, small businesses, and stimulus checks of $1,200 for individuals.
Pelosi told ABC’s “The View” that Trump’s tweets were an effort to rebound from “a terrible mistake,” but she brushed aside questions about doing a slimmed-down aid package, still favoring a comprehensive version.
“It is really important for us to come to this agreement,” she said.
Pelosi spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin by phone on Wednesday evening about a potential standalone bill for $25 billion in aid to airlines that Democrats tried to advance last week, her spokesman wrote on Twitter.
Mnuchin, who had been Pelosi’s negotiating partner as they tried to reach a comprehensive package in recent days, agreed to talk again on Thursday, the spokesman, Drew Hammill, said.
As for Trump’s suggestion about the stimulus checks, Pelosi told ABC: “All he has ever wanted in the negotiation is to send out a check with his name printed on it.”
Trump’s canceling of talks with lawmakers on pandemic aid rattled Wall Street on Tuesday, although Wall Street’s main indexes jumped on Wednesday as investors grew hopeful of at least a partial deal.
The Democratic-led House has already passed legislation seeking a wide range of aid as the novel coronavirus continues to spread, infecting an estimated 7.5 million people in the United States and killing more than 210,000 – the highest death toll in the world. But the measure did not advance in the Senate.
In private negotiations, Pelosi and Mnuchin were unable to close a gap between the $2.2 trillion in new aid Democrats sought and around $1.6 trillion the White House signaled it could accept. But that lower figure was likely to face staunch opposition from some Senate Republicans.
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, Susan Heavey, Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Ross Colvin, Chizu Nomiyama, Rosalba O’Brien and Sonya Hepinstall)