WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday the House will remain in session until lawmakers deliver another round of COVID-19 relief.
Pelosi told her Democratic colleagues on a morning conference call that “we have to stay here until we have a bill.” That’s according to a Democratic aide speaking on condition of anonymity but authorized to quote her remarks.
Pelosi’s comments came as moderate Democrats signed on to a $1.5 trillion rescue package endorsed by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of about 50 lawmakers who seek common solutions to issues.
The plan contains many elements of COVID rescue packages devised by both House Democrats and Republicans controlling the Senate, including aid to schools, funding for state and local governments, and renewal of lapsed COVID-related jobless benefits. The price tag is significantly less than an unspecified $2.2 trillion figure cited by Pelosi but it’s also well above an approximately $650 billion Senate GOP plan than failed last week due to Democratic opposition.
Talks between Pelosi and the Trump administration broke down last month and there had been little optimism they would rekindle before Election Day. And last week, Senate Democrats scuttled a scaled-back GOP coronavirus rescue package.
Pelosi has maintained a hard line in negotiations and has been at odds with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. She orchestrated passage of a $3.4 trillion COVID rescue package back in May, but the effort was immediately dismissed by Senate Republicans and the Trump administration.
Tuesday’s remarks, said Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill, don’t mean that the speaker is adopting a more flexible position. She instead seems to be signaling continued determination to press ahead and won’t adjourn the House without an agreement with the administration.
But as the talks collapsed, some moderate Democrats have been agitating for greater compromise. Their talks with pragmatic Republicans yielded common ground but the group does not have much of a track record of broadening their efforts and dominating debates.
“This is how Congress is supposed to work,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., a member of the Problem Solvers group, describing a lengthy, bipartisan negotiation that produced a consensus.
No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland said the moderates had developed “useful ideas, important ideas” but said it did not do enough to address the ongoing needs of helping the economy recover from the COVID-19 crisis.
“We believe that getting to a compromise is absolutely essential,” Hoyer told reporters Tuesday. “Getting to a compromise that does not deal with the problems, however, is not useful, because the longer you delay addressing many of the problems, the greater you weaken both the economy and the response to COVID-19.