Washington: The two most powerful lawmakers in Washington told CNBC on Thursday they believe Congress will strike a coronavirus relief agreement but said major differences must be resolved during an increasingly bitter process.
“Exactly when that deal comes together I can’t tell you, but I think it will at some point in the near future,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on “Squawk on the Street.”
Also speaking to CNBC, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said she expects an agreement to boost an economy and health-care system devastated by the pandemic.
Negotiators have struggled to craft an aid bill. The two sides have to decide how to extend extra federal unemployment insurance, continue a moratorium on evictions from federally backed housing, help schools educate students safely and offer relief to cash-strapped state and local governments.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have repeatedly cited progress after a series of meetings with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. But they have failed to reach an accord. The four officials planned to meet again at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, NBC News reported.
“Will we find a solution? We will,” Pelosi told CNBC. “Will we have an agreement? We will.”
Democrats and the White House have apparently started to yield ground on issues including unemployment insurance and funding for the U.S. Postal Service. They still appear far from any consensus as millions of people face the prospect of slipping into poverty.
On Wednesday, Meadows said the sides “continue to be trillions of dollars apart” on legislation. Last week, the GOP proposed a roughly $1 trillion relief plan. Republicans took a more narrow approach than House Democrats, who passed a $3 trillion package in May.
Meadows has indicated the Trump administration could pull out of talks and try to address jobless benefits and the eviction moratorium by executive action if the sides fail to reach an agreement by Friday. Schumer insisted Wednesday that Democrats “are not walking away” from talks.
It is unclear what President Donald Trump can accomplish through unilateral action, as he needs Congress to approve funding for programs. Even so, Pelosi said she hopes Trump takes steps himself to stop evictions.
“He can extend the moratorium, and I hope that he does,” she said.