WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday vowed to keep the House in session until a deal is reached on COVID relief — after her own Democrats blocked a $650 billion package offered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Pressure is mounting on lawmakers to pass desperately needed relief for American families, including another round of $1,200 checks, with 60 million people filing jobless claims during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have to stay here until we have a bill,” Pelosi told lawmakers on a Tuesday morning House Democratic Caucus conference call, according to multiple reports.
The current session is due to end on Oct. 2, allowing members to campaign in their districts ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer clarified that Congressional leadership would stay in town and members would only be called back if a deal was reached.
But aides on both sides of the aisle told The Post they were pessimistic any compromise would be reached before the election — blaming political grandstanding.
Talks between the White House, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stalled last month and Democrats last week rejected McConnell’s $650 billion “skinny” bill that included $300 supplements payments to the unemployed.
“That GOP bill was a piece of garbage,” one source familiar with the negotiations told The Post of McConnell’s skinny bill. “There was no funding for state and local governments, no transit, nothing for testing, tracing — nothing.”
But a GOP aide said that McConnell’s bill — which included the crucial $300 unemployment insurance and $105 billion for schools — was perfectly reasonable and should have had bipartisan support.
Democrats have been unwilling to budge on certain issues included in the $3.4 trillion HEROES package they passed in May — including funding for federal and state governments.
Long Island GOP Congressman Lee Zeldin told The Post he believed a deal could be “cut instantly” but said Pelosi’s $900 billion ask for state and federal funding was “holding up a win.”
“Congressional Democrats need to come off their $900 billion ask. It doesn’t pass the smell test. It’s more than what state and local governments are asking for,” he said, adding that the White House had been willing to give $150 billion to this cause.
“The American public demands bipartisan compromise and they want to see progress,” he added.
Frustrated by the impasse, members from the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus unveiled their own COVID relief framework on Tuesday, a $1.5 billion compromise with money for coronavirus testing, state and local aid, another lot of $1,200 stimulus checks, and a $450 per-week boost to unemployment.
“What we’re showing today is a deal is not only possible, but more importantly, a deal must be possible because failure is not an option,” Staten Island Rep. Max Rose, a Democratic member of the caucus, told The Post.
“This isn’t a game. This isn’t a red state or a blue state issue. This is an American issue and we must come together as Americans and get the job done,” said Rose, who is involved in a fierce reelection battle with Republican challenger, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, in a purple district.
Reports emerged last week of pressure mounting on Pelosi from moderate and vulnerable Democrats to take action nearly four months after the HEROES Act was rejected by the Senate.
Democratic aides rejected that notion and said the caucus was united. One staffer went so far as to say Republicans — and Trump — needed a win much more than they did and claimed the struggling American public would blame Trump for their financial situation.
But it was Trump who acted when negotiations between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the White House’s relief point person, broke down in August as the $600-per-week federal unemployment boost ran out.
Amid the impasse between Democrats and Republicans, Trump signed an executive order ensuring that tens of millions of Americans would continue receiving increased benefits at the slightly reduced weekly rate of $400.