House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday announced a broad deal with the Trump administration on coronavirus relief legislation, though President Donald Trump has yet to publicly say that he backs the measure, which adds paid emergency leave and free testing for COVID-19.
“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,” the California Democrat wrote in a “dear colleague” letter Friday evening.
Pelosi said in her letter that the legislation is made up of a number of provisions, including “free coronavirus testing for everyone who needs a test, including the uninsured.”
The legislation will also provide, according to Pelosi, “paid emergency leave with two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave.”
It will also expand federal funding for Medicaid “to support our local, state, tribal and territorial governments and health systems, so that they have the resources necessary to combat this crisis.”
House Democrats have been planning to vote Friday on a coronavirus relief measure with or without bipartisan support amid uncertainty over when exactly the vote will happen and whether the Trump administration will ultimately get behind the bill.
Trump earlier criticized the legislative package during a news conference on Friday afternoon from the White House even as Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the President’s top negotiator for the deal, continued to discuss legislation.
In remarks delivered from the US Capitol roughly an hour before the President publicly expressed his dissatisfaction, Pelosi insisted that the House of Representatives will move to pass the legislation, saying definitively, “Today, we are passing a bill.” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland echoed that priority in a letter to House Democrats saying that the House would vote on a relief bill one way or another.
“The speaker has literally been working around the clock to achieve a bipartisan agreement on our further response to the crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic,” Hoyer said. “If we reach agreement, we’ll vote on it. If not, we will vote today on our bill, which incorporates nearly all of what the Administration and Republicans have requested.”
The House has been gearing up for a vote after top negotiators spent the past day in discussions over how to reach a consensus agreement between House Democrats and the Trump administration.
The concern over coronavirus has scrambled leaders to try and pass a comprehensive package that would address paid sick leave and expand the social safety net for vulnerable children and families whose lives may be disrupted by the virus.
The effort comes as concern and anxiety mounts over the rapid spread of coronavirus across the United States — a development that has jolted the financial markets.
Throughout the day on Friday, however, uncertainty over whether the President would ultimately get behind the legislative package complicated negotiations.
During a Friday afternoon press conference, however, Trump did not say he would support the legislation.
“Well, we just don’t think they’re giving enough. We don’t think the Democrats are giving enough,” the President said.
“We’re negotiating. We thought we had something, but all of a sudden they didn’t agree to certain things that they agreed to. We could have something but we don’t think they’re giving enough. They’re not doing what’s right for the country.”
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy convened a last-minute conference call with his members, walking them through remaining sticking points even as he remained upbeat a deal could still be clinched over the upcoming hours.
McCarthy told members that there were plenty of good things in the bill — particularly on the testing elements, which have strong GOP support. But McCarthy also addressed that there were some glaring technical mistakes, and that the GOP wanted to do more to ensure concerns about supporting small business jobs were addressed.
Rep. Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, emerged from Pelosi’s office Friday morning and said he expected there will be a vote later Friday. He declined to comment further, saying he has been “instructed” not to talk.
“I think the package is basically ready,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the House Rules Committee.
Paid leave is “pretty much resolved,” Hoyer said.
Earlier on Friday morning, two people involved in the talks said that as negotiators moved toward agreement on a final, sweeping economic stimulus package, the main outstanding issue remained the scope of the paid leave pieces of the agreement.
Pelosi and Mnuchin have spoken again on Friday — after speaking eight separate times over hours of intense negotiations on Thursday — as they attempted to close out the final major hurdle.
“We’ll get there,” one aide involved told CNN. “We’re as close to a deal as we can be without actually having one.”
Congress passed an $8.3 billion total coronavirus response package last week, but there is a strong sense among lawmakers that more needed to be done to respond to the economic fallout from the spread of the virus.