“I will be speaking to the speaker this afternoon, we’re going to talk about where we are with the appropriations issue, keep the government running, that is the first priority,” Mnuchin told reporters earlier Tuesday, referencing the December 11 deadline to keep the government funded.
“We want to make sure it is on track, so the President wants to make sure there is not a shutdown and our first choice is not to do a CR, to get appropriations passed,” Mnuchin said, referencing the continuing resolution that could keep the government funded at current levels until a set date while negotiations continue.
Following their conversation, Pelosi released a statement saying that the two had discussed the funding bill and coronavirus relief.
“Additional COVID relief is long overdue and must be passed in this lame duck session,” Pelosi said.
Stimulus talks have stopped and started multiple times since July with both sides deadlocked on another package since Congress passed $2 trillion in emergency relief in March. News of the Pelosi-Mnuchin discussion comes amid renewed pressure from rank-and-file members on their leadership to pass some form of stimulus as the country faces a cliff at the end of the year when multiple provisions will expire.
Some Republicans were hardly thrilled at the news Mnuchin and Pelosi will speak. While it’s the first time the pair has spoken about stimulus funding since the election, Republican aides involved in the spending and stimulus negotiations argued the talks could make it harder for a deal to ultimately come together and they aren’t optimistic the talks change much.
“Haven’t we had enough of that over the past several months,” one GOP aide said.
Republicans have worried for months that Mnuchin isn’t as fiscally conservative as they would hope in the talks. It’s part of the reason that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear after the election that he was going to step in to negotiate and why Mnuchin has not played a visible role in weeks in these talks.
Republicans fear that Mnuchin gives too much to Dems. Ahead of the election, Pelosi and Mnuchin were eying a proposal around $1.8 trillion. The bipartisan plan laid out Tuesday morning in the Senate cost just $908 billion. In other words, Republicans think they could be much more aggressive in the negotiations if Mnuchin wasn’t negotiating it.
Still, a growing number of lawmakers from both parties are pushing to find some kind of deal. Tuesday morning, a bipartisan group of senators announced their own $908 billion proposal, which would be between the around $2 trillion package Democrats had pushed for earlier this year and above the $500 billion plan GOP senators discussed over the summer.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah said the group has spoken with Mnuchin about the framework but he hasn’t weighed in on whether the White House would back it. He said they’ve spoken to McConnell as well.
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who was among the senators working with Romney, called the $908-billion dollar “framework” relief that would go through April 1 “a labor of intense effort” that came together in about 30 days.
“It’s inexcusable for us to leave town and not have an agreement,” Manchin said. “This is going to get us through the most difficult times.”
Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, also said he hopes they pass something before Christmas.
“It’s not going make everybody happy but there’s been an enormous amount of work done,” Warner said. “It would be stupidity on steroids if Congress left for Christmas without doing an interim package as a bridge.”
The bipartisan framework, however, is still missing key details. The two sides have not ironed out how they would deal with liability protections, something McConnell has said is a red line for him to back a package. And, the group has yet to roll out specific language for their proposal. Many senators said they needed more details before they could agree to back it.
“The energy is in the Senate,” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said. “There seems to be a desire by people on both sides of the aisle before we come home, before Christmas to provide some much-needed relief. Liability protection needs to be part of the package. … If you can solve that problem, I think you are off to the races.”
CNN’s Manu Raju and Kristin Wilson contributed to this report.