• A liability shield for employers and money for state and local governments are among the unresolved issues
  • Pelosi says progress was made this week
  • If nothing gets done before the election, it will be more difficult to pass a stimulus plan afterward -- no matter which political party prevails

Even if the White House and Democrats reach agreement in the near future, chances of a vote on coronavirus stimulus before the election were fading.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had not scheduled any talks for Friday but were said to be close to finalizing a $2 trillion spending plan that would give Americans $1,200 checks, provide supplemental unemployment benefits and provide funds for small businesses, schools and other needs.

Two remaining issues are funding for state and local governments and a liability shield for employers. Republicans are pushing for liability protection from COVID suits for businesses that reopen, something Pelosi has described as a poison pill.

Talks have been dragging on amid a rise in coronavirus infections, now topping 8.4 million. More than 223,000 Americans have died.

The first rounds of stimulus enabled the economy to begin bouncing back quickly but that has stalled in recent months. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has warned that failure to provide more stimulus will lead to permanent damage to the economy and prolong the recovery.

However, not only are Senate Republicans balking at the price tag, House Democrats are reluctant to return to Washington for a vote ahead of the election, Bloomberg reported.

The stimulus talks have been stuttering along for months. The remaining provisions of the CARES Act expire at the end of the year, and the remaining 11 million people who lost their jobs because of the pandemic have been waiting for a second round of supplemental unemployment benefits since Aug. 1.

Pelosi told reporters Thursday agreement is near on developing an “adequately” funded national strategic plan to “crush” the virus to enable the economy to reopen fully and send children back to their schools.

“I'm pleased that we have reached a point where we at least – well, we still haven’t, they still haven't completely signed off on it, but I think we're just about there – that we will allocate, again, the resources and the policies necessary to do that,” she said.

Pelosi indicated that even if a deal is reached soon, there might not be enough time for the Congressional Budget Office to score the measure ahead of a floor vote next week. Additionally, House Democrats are reluctant to return to the Capitol if 13 Senate Republican votes cannot be guaranteed to secure final passage.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama told reporters Republicans are not going to sign off on anything until they see an actual bill in writing. He said it is unlikely anything will happen before the election Nov. 3.

President Donald Trump, who has said he favors a large stimulus bill, blamed Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, tweeting they are holding up agreement because they want to bail out cash-strapped state and local governments that have borne the majority of the costs involved in containing the virus.

Passage of a substantial stimulus bill gets more difficult after the election, no matter who wins the White House and control of Congress. If Democrats prevail, Republicans likely would balk at clearing the decks ahead of a Biden administration. If the GOP prevails, Republicans likely would press for a slimmed down bill, eyeing ballooning budget deficits.