House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that she wants the House to remain in session until congressional leaders can reach a coronavirus stimulus deal, even as rank-and-file efforts to jar loose negotiations that have been at a stalemate for more than a month were quickly shot down.
'We are committed to staying here until we have an agreement — an agreement that meets the needs of the American people,' Pelosi said during an interview with CNBC.
Pelosi and other Democratic leaders initially appeared to indicate the House was poised to scrap some of its pre-election recess planned for October if needed — but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters later Tuesday that the situation wouldn't be much different than what the House has done throughout August. Members will be able to go home to their districts, he said, while Democratic leaders will carry on negotiations. Members will receive 24 hours' notice to get to Washington for votes if a deal is reached.
'What the speaker is saying and what I would reiterate is that we are going to be voting on a piece of legislation as soon as we can get to a deal,' Hoyer told reporters. 'As soon as we can get to something that will pass.'
The reality at the moment, members on both sides of the Capitol say, is that the two sides are no closer to an agreement.
A coronavirus stimulus deal has eluded congressional leaders and negotiators for the Trump administration as talks on another package broke down last month over the price tag of the deal.
Democratic leaders have pushed for a $2.2 trillion aid package — an amount top Republicans argue is too costly.
At the heart of the issue is a fundamental difference between the two sides on what is needed as the US continues to grapple with both the economic and public health fallout of a once-in-a-century pandemic. Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, the top Democratic negotiators, have repeatedly castigated Republicans for their unwillingness to consider larger scale proposals, with a major holdup in talks centering on new aid for states and localities.
Senate Republicans attempted to move a scaled-back relief package, referred to as a 'skinny' bill, last week, but were blocked by the chamber's Democrats. Pelosi has maintained for weeks that she would reject any scaled back efforts -- and reiterated that Tuesday.
'A skinny deal is not a deal,' Pelosi said on the call.
Pelosi didn't directly address a new bipartisan effort to break the logjam, put together by the Problem Solvers Caucus and released Tuesday, but a joint statement from eight House Democratic committee chairs poured a significant amount of cold water on the proposal.
'While we appreciate every attempt at providing critical relief to American families, the Problem Solvers Caucus' proposal falls short of what is needed to save lives and boost the economy,' the committee chairs said in a rare joint statement.
Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, also made clear the proposal was a non-starter in its current form.
'I think the Problem Solvers are lower than would be a responsible deal,' Hoyer told reporters. 'But I think their ideas are useful and maybe it will encourage our Republican friends to come up.'
That package would direct $100 billion to health care programs, including $25 billion for coronavirus testing and contact tracing. It would provide $500 billion for state and local governments, $145 billion for schools and child care, $15 billion for the US Postal Service, and $290 billion for small businesses. It would also include $400 million to help states hold the November elections.
The measure also incorporates another round of $1,200 direct payments to individuals under a certain income threshold, with an additional $500 per child, while extending the federal eviction moratorium and providing rental assistance up to $25 billion.
Supporters said they hoped the plan could break the logjam and spur action on Capitol Hill, as talks have been at an impasse since August.
While Pelosi made clear she was not backing off the firm position held by Democratic leaders on scale and scope of any final deal, she did make a commitment to jittery members of her caucus that the House would stay in session until an agreement is reached — a position she confirmed during the CNBC interview.
While Pelosi made clear she was not backing off the position held by Democratic leaders on scale and scope of any final deal, she expressed hope that the Trump administration could come around to their point of view.
'We're optimistic that the White House at least will understand that we have to do some things,' she said.
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.