Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are expected to announce a bipartisan agreement Tuesday on a nearly $2 trillion emergency stimulus package to confront the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
But as those negotiations were continuing late into the night on Monday, President Donald Trump was sending mixed signals over whether he would ultimately support the imminent deal — even as both sides projected confidence amid heated partisan sniping on the Senate floor.
“We expect to have an agreement tomorrow morning. There are still a few little differences. Neither of us think they are in any way going to get in the way of a final agreement,” Schumer said after his sixth meeting of the day with Mnuchin just after midnight.
The Senate Democratic leader also said the Treasury chief, who has been running point on the negotiations for the White House, called Trump late Monday night to give him an update, adding: “[H]e seemed very happy with that.” The Senate could hold an initial procedural vote as early as Tuesday afternoon.
On his way into Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office for a meeting, Mnuchin said he had spoken with Trump twice so far Tuesday morning, and had been on a conference call to update congressional Republicans.
“We’re looking forward to closing a bipartisan deal today,” Mnuchin said, flanked by incoming White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. “The president wants us to get this done today.”
Eric Ueland, the White House’s legislative affairs liaison, reiterated Tuesday morning that they do not have a final agreement but are drafting legislative text to present to committee leaders.
“There are issues that remain to be discussed between Republicans, Democrats, the administration,” Ueland told reporters as he entered the Capitol.
“I’m hopeful we can get this right in the next several hours, so that Congress can be in a position to be able to act today,” Ueland said, though he noted: “Everybody seemed to expect a vote in the past few days up here on the Hill.”
Stocks soared as trading opened Tuesday morning, with the Dow Jones Industrial average spiking more than 1,000 points, as investors eye an imminent deal.
On the other side of the Capitol, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was also projecting confidence that a deal could be clinched on Tuesday.
“I think there is real optimism that we could get something done in the next few hours,” she said during an interview on CNBC, saying Senate Democrats did a “great job” in the negotiations.
Still, Trump took to Twitter late Monday night to harangue Democrats over their demands.
“Republicans had a deal until Nancy Pelosi ]rode into town from her extended vacation. The Democrats want the Virus to win? They are asking for things that have nothing to do with our great workers or companies,” Trump tweeted. “They want Open Borders & Green New Deal. Republicans shouldn’t agree!”
And early Tuesday morning, the president again chastised Democrats — but later appeared supportive of the deal, urging the Senate to act immediately.
“Congress must approve the deal, without all of the nonsense, today. The longer it takes, the harder it will be to start up our economy. Our workers will be hurt!” Trump wrote.
Mnuchin insisted that Trump was looped into the discussions, and said Trump’s initial tweets slamming Democrats were only related to House Democrats’ separate bill, which includes several provisions that Republicans were objecting to.
Schumer was seeking added protections for workers in the final version of the bill, in addition to a so-called “Marshall Plan” for U.S. hospitals, which could soon be overrun with coronavirus patients.
The New York Democrat also extracted a key concession from Mnuchin: strict oversight over a $500 billion fund designed to lend money to corporations that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, according to three sources. Democrats had criticized the initial proposal as a “slush fund” that provided no mechanisms for accountability and allowed the Trump administration to withhold details about which companies received such loans.
During her CNBC interview, Pelosi said the fund would be overseen by an inspector general and a congressional panel.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Rules Committee, is recommending that the House pass the Senate’s emergency package by unanimous consent or a voice vote, which would allow lawmakers to remain in their home districts. Notably, Pelosi said Tuesday that she is aiming to pass the Senate bill by unanimous consent. House Democrats will convene on a conference call on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the path forward.
McConnell (R-Ky.) had been pushing hard for a vote by Monday, but Senate Democrats over a two-day period defeated two procedural motions on the bill, citing ongoing negotiations between Schumer and Mnuchin. Republicans bitterly attacked their Democratic counterparts on the Senate floor Monday, accusing them of playing political games while the economy and global financial markets remain in a free-fall.
The coronavirus has already hit the Senate, with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announcing on Sunday that he tested positive for the virus. Meanwhile, several other senators decided to self-quarantine due to their close interactions with Paul and other individuals who tested positive.
Paul’s diagnosis — in addition to Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minn.) announcement Monday that her husband contracted the virus — underscored the urgency for Congress to approve a rescue package, with several senators expressing wariness over the fact that the chamber was still convening daily despite federal recommendations against large gatherings.
Heather Caygle and Kyle Cheney contributed to this report