Finance

Pelosi slams Trump administration over virus testing as stimulus negotiations remain deadlocked

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., the United States, on Oct. 9, 2020.

Ting Shen | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi eviscerated the Trump administration on Monday as Washington fails to send more relief to Americans during a record spike in coronavirus cases.

The California Democrat’s biting letter to House Democrats came only minutes before a planned conversation with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as the two push to reach a stimulus agreement. The chances of Congress approving a relief bill before Election Day on Nov. 3 have all but evaporated.

Pelosi targeted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows for saying Sunday that “we’re not going to control the pandemic.” She also said the Trump administration has not accepted House Democrats’ proposal for a national testing strategy, even though Mnuchin said he would during a CNBC interview earlier this month.

“The Republicans’ continued surrender to the virus – particularly amid the recent wave of cases – is official malfeasance,” Pelosi wrote. She said she expects a response from the White House “on several concerns” during the conversation Monday.

“We must come to agreement as soon as possible,” the speaker wrote.

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request to comment on Pelosi’s letter.

The sides have failed to approve new aid money for months despite a climbing infection count and signs of a slowing economic recovery. Democrats have accused the White House of failing to grasp the gravity of the crisis, while Republicans have argued that Pelosi has refused to compromise.

Democrats and the White House have most recently proposed $2.2 trillion and $1.9 trillion relief packages, respectively. Despite the similar target price tags for legislation, the sides still have not resolved disputes over testing, extra unemployment insurance, state and local government relief and liability protections for businesses, among other issues.

Congressional committee chairs have recently worked to start writing potential legislation. But lawmakers have not been particularly optimistic about the prospects of an agreement soon.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby, R-Ala., has told reporters in recent days that chances of a relief deal before the election are slim.

Even after the election, crafting legislation that can pass both the Democratic-held House and GOP-controlled Senate in the lame-duck session before winners take office in January could prove challenging. Republicans have opposed spending trillions more to the virus response, while Democrats want a sweeping package to root out the pandemic and the accompanying economic damage.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump continues to downplay the severity of the pandemic despite a single-day record of more than 80,000 new cases on Friday. In a tweet Monday, he called the staggering number of infections a “Fake News Media Conspiracy.”

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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