(CNN)Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are meeting Wednesday to discuss coronavirus stimulus legislation as the pandemic continues to devastate the US, with House Democrats gearing up for the possibility of holding a vote Wednesday on their own $2.2 trillion proposal if no bipartisan deal is reached.
Mnuchin is on Capitol Hill on Wednesday afternoon to speak with Pelosi. The pressure is high to strike a deal before the November elections with lawmakers facing questions from constituents in need amid the ongoing economic and public health fallout from the pandemic. Pelosi and Mnuchin, who have cut several major deals during the pandemic so far, are trying again to reach a resolution, but disagreement over what the topline number should be has created an obstacle in the latest talks.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, on a private call with the House Democratic caucus on Wednesday, said the House would vote later Wednesday on a $2.2 trillion stimulus proposal from House Democrats if no deal is reached between Pelosi and Mnuchin, according to two people on the call. Earlier this week, House Democrats released an updated version of the Heroes Act — a roughly $3 trillion aid bill that House Democrats passed amid opposition from Republicans in May — with a smaller $2.2 trillion price tag.
Pelosi, for her part, made clear on the call that this won’t be the last opportunity for Democrats to consider a broad stimulus deal and noted that the major outstanding issues are funds for state and local governments and liability protections.
Hoyer told reporters on Wednesday that lawmakers have a “responsibility to act” on coronavirus relief — and that if the House passes the latest Democratic stimulus proposal on Wednesday afternoon, it won’t necessarily mean negotiations with the Trump administration are over.
If Mnuchin and Pelosi can reach an agreement Wednesday, “that is what we will move,” he said. If not, members will vote on the Democratic bill — and negotiations may continue as lawmakers return to their districts.
Hoyer said Democratic leaders are prepared to bring members back from campaigning at home for a vote on a deal if it materializes later than this week. He told members this morning to “keep their schedules flexible.”
But if Democrats ultimately move forward on a vote, it is all but certain to put an end to bipartisan negotiations until after the election.
House Democratic leaders have teed up the bill in case talks fall apart, as has happened repeatedly over the course of the last few months, amid pressure from frontline Democrats who want to show they are taking action to address pandemic-driven economic shortfalls in the weeks before the election.
Mnuchin, on CNBC on Wednesday, said he and Pelosi are “going to give it one more serious try to get this done. We’re hopeful.”
Anything the House passes would need to also get through the Republican-led Senate, and its unclear what kind of package a majority of senators would support. Just ahead of Pelosi and Mnuchin’s meeting, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the floor to slam the Democrats’ latest proposal.
“The latest bill from the speaker is no more serious than any of their political stunts going back months,” McConnell said, adding, “If they continue to refuse to get serious, then American families will continue to hurt.”