Stimulus negotiations: Trump signs off on a $1.8 trillion counter offer to Pelosi


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The direct involvement of Trump himself and his willingness to put down an offer far above the preferences of congressional Republicans adds a dynamic new element to long-stalled negotiations. Trump, to this point, mostly relied on Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to handle the details of the talks with Pelosi.

The $1.8 trillion figure is up from a $1.6 trillion offer from earlier this week, though it remains below the $2.2 trillion in the bill passed last week by House Democrats — and Pelosi has been unwilling to go below $2 trillion in negotiations up to this point, people familiar with the matter say.

The details in the offer remain as important, if not more so, than the topline dollar figure. The specifics are not currently known, though they are expected to be presented to Pelosi later Friday.

The movement from the Trump administration underscores the colossal stakes at play regarding relief in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. The coronavirus, which is still surging in parts of the country, has killed more than 213,000 people in the US, and shutdowns in response to Covid have had broad economic consequences.

A wide-ranging package would attempt to address the twin economic and public health crises that continue to play out — and top economic officials including Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell have warned inaction could have dire consequences.

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But whether the new White House offer will lead to a breakthrough in talks that for months have remained stuck in a ditch is unclear.

Pelosi has said repeatedly that the actually legislative language — and where that language directs the funds — has become the most critical aspect of any agreement, pushing particularly for funding for states and localities that have significant budget shortfalls, a key sticking point for the Trump administration.

Trump’s willingness to “go big,” as he framed it on Twitter on Friday runs risks inside his own party. Republicans in both chambers have voiced concern over any price tag above $1 trillion. Many are opposed to any new aid at all.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cast doubt earlier Friday on the possibility that any deal could get passed ahead of Election Day.

“The situation is kinda murky, and I think the murkiness is a result of the proximity to the election,” McConnell told reporters at an event in Kentucky. “And everybody trying to elbow for political advantage. I’d like to see us rise above that like we did back in March and April but I think that’s unlikely in the next three weeks.”

CNN’s Austen Bundy contributed to this report.

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