No progress in stimulus impasse after Pelosi and Meadows discuss coronavirus relief

Pelosi made clear to reporters after the call that negotiations over the next coronavirus relief legislation won’t start again in earnest until the White House comes up on its topline offer, saying that there’s “no reason” to continue talks until the Trump administration moves.

Pelosi remained firm that the Democratic topline offer sits at $2.2 trillion and they are unwilling to go lower. The White House has dismissed that offer as far too high.

In another indication of how far apart the two sides remain, the speaker said in a statement released after the roughly 25-minute call that the “conversation made clear that the White House continues to disregard the needs of the American people as the coronavirus crisis devastates lives and livelihoods.”

Prior to Thursday’s phone call, Pelosi and Meadows hadn’t spoken since talks imploded weeks ago and negotiators walked away without a deal intended to bolster the economy and help struggling Americans pay their bills amid the pandemic.

The phone call represented the first tangible step toward restarting negotiations since they broke down, but it concluded with talks stuck in the same place they have been for weeks: nowhere.

There is little optimism on either side of Pennsylvania Avenue that there will be any progress on stimulus talks before lawmakers return to Washington in September, as the two sides remain far apart on even the general scope of a package, let alone the granular policy details of one.

But the fact that Pelosi and Meadows talked — after partisan blaming and spending the last several weeks talking past and around one another through the press — represents the first tangible step toward restarting negotiations since they broke down.

She said earlier Thursday before that call that the conversation is only happening to respect the fact that President Donald Trump’s representative — “not even the lead negotiator,” she said of Meadows — has reached out. She said she views Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as the lead negotiator.

“We do not have shared values. That’s why it’s very hard to come to an agreement on this,” she said.

Pelosi is facing pressure from rank-and-file members to restart negotiations with the White House. Nearly half of House Democrats signed a letter last week urging her to pass a stand-alone unemployment insurance bill.

On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Pelosi insisted that her caucus is standing together in its approach to negotiating another round of coronavirus relief legislation with the Trump administration.

Meadows on Wednesday told Politico that he’s “not optimistic” a deal will be reached until after September, and predicted that Pelosi would run the clock out until the fiscal year deadline at the end of September to get Democratic priorities into a funding measure.

Pelosi has been resistant to the idea of rolling relief efforts into a funding measure, arguing that an agreement is needed now.

Democrats have also rejected a piecemeal approach, making clear they won’t agree to anything that doesn’t address their full view of the current needs.

But on Saturday, House lawmakers returned early from August recess and voted largely along party lines to allocate $25 billion to the US Postal Service, a bill which the White House has threatened to veto.
The vote prompted Meadows to tweet at Democrats, arguing, “If you really want to help Americans, how about passing relief for small businesses and unemployment assistance ALONG with postal funding?”

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

CNN’s Haley Byrd, Betsy Klein and Alison Main contributed to this report.