White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said President Donald Trump would be willing to sign a $1.3 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, only a slight increase over the $1.1 trillion HEALS Act Senate Republicans proposed last month. It is still far away from the number House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats are looking at. Pelosi recently agreed to lower her demands from $2.4 trillion to $2.2 trillion, which was already a significant concession, since the HEROES Act passed in May cost over $3 trillion.
"The president right now is willing to sign something at $1.3 trillion," Meadows told reporters Friday, reports The Hill. Meadows said the number was offered privately to Democrats and noted Pelosi still wants a $2.2 trillion package. Pelosi and Meadows briefly spoke over the phone on Thursday, but there was no deal reached.
"We have said again and again that we're willing to come down and meet them in the middle — that would be $2.2 trillion — and when they're ready to do that, we'll be ready to discuss and negotiate the particulars," Pelosi told reporters after her conversation with Meadows. "When they're ready to do that, they'll let us know," she said, but she did not get the impression that they are. The Thursday phone call was the first time Meadows, and Pelosi spoke since Aug. 7, when talks broke down over disagreements on unemployment benefits and aid to state and local governments during the pandemic.
Both sides still agree that there needs to be another relief package. Meadows said it was "incumbent" for Washington to act and criticized Pelosi for not compromising on a bill that would cover areas where the two sides are in agreement. "We not only need to help with enhanced unemployment but small businesses, aid to schools, making sure that daycare provisions are augmented in this unprecedented time," he said Friday.
The House passed the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act in mid-May, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans dismissed it. They waited until late July to respond with the $1.1 trillion HEALS Act proposal, which kick-started the negotiations between Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Meadows, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
During the impasse, Trump signed executive orders on Aug. 8, including one creating the Lost Wages Assistance Plan to extend the federal unemployment benefits. Both the HEALS Act and HEROES Act included another direct stimulus check payment to qualifying Americans. The CARES Act included a one-time economic impact payment of at least $1,200 for taxpayers, and Americans began receiving them in April.