KEY POINTS

  • In a phone call, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin fail to make progress to advance stalled stimulus talks 
  • “People will die,” said Pelosi if an agreement isn't reached by September
  • “The Democrats have no interest in negotiating,” claims Mnuchin

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., warns Americans could die if Congress fails to pass the unduly delayed fourth coronavirus relief package by September.

On Wednesday, Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol she hopes the laborious and fruitless talks on coronavirus relief won't drag on until September.

“People will die,” she said.

There have been no person-to-person talks between the House and the Senate since talks collapsed Aug. 7. On Wednesday, however, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Pelosi spoke on the phone. Pelosi later said nothing was achieved during the phone call.

In a joint statement with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, released later, Pelosi said they're against holding further discussions until Republicans offer to increase the amount of money they’re willing to spend to combat the raging COVID-19 pandemic. As of Wednesday, the pandemic had inflicted 5.6 million cases and 169,000 deaths in the United States.

Schumer and Pelosi said they're making this demand after Mnuchin rejected their offer to find a middle ground between the Democrats’ $3 trillion HEROES Act passed May 15 and the GOP’s $1 trillion HEALS Act revealed July 27.

“We have again made clear to the Administration that we are willing to resume negotiations once they start to take this process seriously,” they said.

The intractable logjams hindering any progress are the weekly payments to jobless Americans and aid for state and local governments.

Democrats want to retain the $600 weekly aid provided in their CARES Act signed into law on March 27. Republicans want to either do away with the aid or rerduce it to a smaller amount. They also oppose aid to states, claiming this will allow Democrat governors to escape whatever financial mess it is they're in.

Pelosi also said no progress has been made on reaching a compromise on money for food aid, rental assistance and schools. Specifically, the Democrats want $60 billion for food assistance while the GOP says $250,000 will be sufficient.

Democrats propose $100 billion for rental and mortgage assistance. On the other hand, Republican refuse to set aside any funds for housing aid. Democrats now want $200 billion for school funding. Republicans propose $105 billion for schools but much of this money will be given on to schools that physically reopen.

Schumer (L) and Pelosi have dismissed Trump's unilateral extension of a virus relief package Schumer (L) and Pelosi have dismissed Trump's unilateral extension of a virus relief package Photo: AFP / MANDEL NGAN

Democrats also said Mnuchin refused to add more money to the White House offer. On Monday, Mnuchin said the Trump administration is “prepared to put more money on the table.” He didn't say how much more the White House is willing to spend, however.

Mnuchin said Pelosi’s comments are “not an accurate reflection of our conversation.” He claims she “made clear that she was unwilling to meet to continue negotiations unless we agreed in advance to her proposal, costing at least $2 trillion.”

“The Democrats have no interest in negotiating,” claims Mnuchin.

Pelosi assailed Republicans for the stalemate. She blasted them as "disorganized, in disarray, and do not believe in governance or science."

"Let's meet in the middle, we've said all of that," according to Pelosi. "But until they're ready to do that, it's no use sitting in a room and let them tell us that states should go bankrupt."

Despite the discord, Pelosi is confident Republicans will see it their way.

"As a practical matter, they're going to have to come to the table," she asserted.