Although hope for a stimulus relief bill before Election Day is dwindling, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are continuing to make progress in their once-stalled negotiations. After officially resuming talks regarding an additional bill in late September after they had collapsed in August, the two sides are said to be one step closer to putting "pen to paper" to write the next bill.
Wednesday afternoon, Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke via phone for 48 minutes, according to the house speaker's deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, marking just the latest discussions to take place amid this final push for aid. While Hammill refrained from giving any exact details from the talks, he said that "differences continue to be narrowed on health priorities, including language providing a national strategic testing and contract tracing plan." He did note, however, that provisions targeting schools remain a sticking point, writing, "more work needs to be done to ensure that schools are the safest places in America for children to learn." Despite this, though, Hammill confirmed that the two sides "are better prepared to reach compromise on several priorities" and that the latest discussions brought them "closer to being able to put pen to paper to write legislation."
The relief talks have made significant progress throughout this past week, with Pelosi and Mnuchin holding daily phone calls, lasting approximately an hour each day. Although there is now doubt that a bill will be able to make it through both chambers of Congress – the House of Representatives and the Senate – in time for it to receive President Donald Trump's signature by the Nov. 3 election, Hammill's updates this week have indicated that the two sides have managed to bridge a number of gaps that had once made a relief bill seem far off.
Addressing the duo's Tuesday evening talks, Hammill had stated that Pelosi and Mnuchin had achieved "more clarity and common ground as they move closer to an agreement" and had "called for the committee chairs to work to resolve differences about funding levels and language" on several "open questions." Among those key differences was the language surrounding a provision on coronavirus testing and contact tracing, though those differences seem to have been narrowed. Pelosi also reportedly informed those on a phone call with her Monday that key issues remained funding for state and local governments, support for restaurants, and additional health provisions.
According to Hammill, Pelosi and Mnuchin are set to resume discussions Thursday. Both hope enter their talks "with further guidance from committee chairs as they work to resolve open questions."