Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, head of the Democratic caucus, said Wednesday both parties are much closer to reaching a coronavirus relief deal than at any point during the months-long impasse.
At the same time Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he is “hopeful” the parties will reach an agreement, after speaking with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., every day this week.
Jeffries pointed to Mnuchin seeming to be open to embrace $1.5 trillion in new stimulus spending, a number put forth in mid-September by the Problem Solvers Caucus, noting that the figure is much closer to the Democrats $2.2 trillion relief package, down from their original $3 trillion Heroes Act.
“If you look at the Problem Solvers proposal, at the high end it's approximately $2 trillion," Jeffries told reporters in the Capitol. "And so I think that to the extent that Secretary Mnuchin has indicated that he will use the Problem Solver proposal as a basis for any counteroffer, actually brings us much closer to an agreement than we've ever been."
President Trump has also expressed support of a $1.5 trillion plan.
After months went by with zero progress on a relief bill for the virus-induced crisis Mnuchin and Pelosi once again resumed negotiations this week by phone. The pair met early Wednesday afternoon in person.
Mnuchin indicated Wednesday that Republicans would soon counter House Democrats’ $2.2 trillion plan with a $1.5 trillion bill in line with what the Problem Solvers Caucus introduced earlier in the month.
House Democrats put off a floor vote Wednesday afternoon on their package to give Pelosi and Mnuchin more time. The Democrats' measures includes a fresh round of $1,200 stimulus checks and about $1 trillion in funding for state and local governments, which Republicans have long been leary of.
The Problem Solvers’ bill includes about $500 billion in state and local relief, $1,200 stimulus checks and a replenishment for the Paycheck Protection Program.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., has pressed for a vote for weeks, and told reporters Wednesday morning the House would scrap a vote on their plan and instead vote on a bipartisan deal instead, should Pelosi and Mnuchin reach a final agreement.
"If we have a bipartisan deal ... that is what we will move," Hoyer said on a press call.