House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is continuing to express her frustrations with the White House amid ongoing stimulus relief bill negotiations. Following an hour-long phone call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Saturday evening, Pelosi, appearing on ABC's This Week, slammed the Trump administration for cutting a large portion of the Democrats’ proposal regarding coronavirus testing and contact tracing.
Speaking with host George Stephanopoulos, Pelosi said that while she and the White House have since both agreed on including funding for testing and tracing, many differences still lay in the language of the provision. Although Pelosi claimed the Trump administration has stated they "were accepting the language on testing," their claims that they were only going to make a "light touch" to the provision actually resulted in them taking "out 55% of the language" Democrats had used.
The Trump Administration must negotiate in good faith. They told us they would put a light touch on our most recent proposal for testing & tracing. Instead, they took a chainsaw to the proposal, cutting more than half of our proposal. #ThisWeek pic.twitter.com/UFpsfb5SP2— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) October 18, 2020
"They changed 'shall' to 'may,' 'requirements' to 'recommendations,' 'a plan' to 'a strategy,' not a strategic plan," Pelosi, who suggested some of this may be due to the fact that some in the administration are not legislators, explained. "They took out 55% of the language that we had there for testing and tracing, and the tracing part is so important because communities of color have been disproportionately affected by this. So on this subject, where we have agreement, we do not have agreement in the language yet. But I'm hopeful."
Pelosi, who also laid this out in a letter sent to her Democratic colleagues, went on to stress the importance of including this provision in any additional stimulus relief bill. The house speaker cited the findings that communities of color have been more affected by the pandemic, stating that "communities of color have more deaths than the White population…. A Hispanic child has eight times more chance of going to the hospital with COVID than a White child. A Black child, five times more chance of going to the hospital. That’s because we have not addressed the problem."
In her letter to her colleagues, which was sent Sunday, Pelosi explained that getting the language on this provision straightened out was critical. The "light touches" the White House made, she said, "make the funding a slush fund for the Administration which 'may' grant or withhold rather than a prescribed, funded plan to crush the virus."
At this time, details of a possible additional bill remain unclear, including how much funding would be provided for testing and contact tracing. Under the HEROES Act and HEROES Act 2.0, a $2.2 trillion proposal introduced earlier in October which has since been approved by the House of Representatives, Democrats sought $75 billion for increased coronavirus testing and contact tracing. Democrats have argued that this is necessary to slowing the spread of the pandemic, thus preventing deaths, which have surpassed 215,000 in the U.S., and also putting the country back on the path of economic recovery.