WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is dismissing the latest White House offer in COVID-19 aid talks as “one step forward, two steps back.” However, the California Democrat said in a letter that she's still hopeful that progress can be made toward a deal.
The White House had boosted its offer before Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Pelosi spoke on Friday afternoon, but the speaker says she wants to agree on specific language about what the money will go towards.
“When the President talks about wanting a bigger relief package, his proposal appears to mean that he wants more money at his discretion to grant or withhold, rather than agreeing on language prescribing how we honor our workers, crush the virus and put money in the pockets of workers,” said Pelosi.
President Donald Trump is eager for an agreement before Election Day, even as his most powerful GOP ally in the Senate says Congress is unlikely to deliver relief by then.
Pelosi tells colleagues in the letter that while the administration tried to address some Democratic concerns, disagreement remained on many priorities.
“A key concern is the absence of any response on a strategic plan to crush the virus,” said Pelosi. “We cannot safely reopen schools, the economy and our communities until we crush the virus with the science-based, national plan for testing, tracing, treatment and isolation, and for the equitable and ethical distribution of a safe and effective vaccine once developed. This strategic plan is contained in the Heroes Act.”
Democrats are also pushing for strong OSHA protections to keep workers safe as they risk their lives to keep the economy running.
“We are urging the Administration to support our strong OSHA language, which requires OSHA to issue an enforceable emergency temporary standard within seven days that covers all workers from COVID-19 infections,” wrote Pelosi.
In her letter, Pelosi went on to explain what is in the Heroes Act, the stimulus bill that’s been passed by the House, but rejected by Republicans.