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Pelosi, Admin Trade Blame Over Aid     10/30 06:16

   The major players in Washington's COVID-19 relief blame game lobbed familiar 
volleys on Thursday, marking time in the days before an election that promises 
to change the landscape for talks that have dragged on for months without 
producing results.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The major players in Washington's COVID-19 relief blame 
game lobbed familiar volleys on Thursday, marking time in the days before an 
election that promises to change the landscape for talks that have dragged on 
for months without producing results.

   House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a scolding assessment, blaming Treasury 
Secretary Steven Mnuchin for failing to produce answers to her demands for 
Democratic priorities as part of the approximately $2 trillion aid package. 
President Donald Trump again promised "a very big package as soon as the 
election is over" and faulted Pelosi for the pre-election standoff that has 
rattled markets and shows, at least for now, no signs of easing.

   Pelosi sent Mnuchin a letter faulting Republicans for the failed talks, 
which ground on for three months and cratered in the final days before the 
election. Where the talks go after the election is wholly uncertain --- a 
comeback win would award Trump with greater leverage but a loss could also make 
him less invested in an agreement and less willing to compromise to get there.

   "I would rather do it now, but Nancy Pelosi does not want to do it," Trump 
said Thursday from Las Vegas on "The Jon Taffer Podcast."

   Pelosi says remaining obstacles to an agreement include more than half a 
dozen big-ticket items, including a testing plan, aid to state and local 
governments, funding for schools, jobless benefits and a GOP-sought shield 
against coronavirus-related lawsuits.

   Republicans, who say Pelosi has been unyielding in the talks, will control 
the White House and the Senate until January regardless of the outcome of 
Tuesday's election, and have pressed for a more targeted aid package that 
ignores key Pelosi demands.

   They say items like refundable tax credits for the working poor and families 
with children are not directly related to fighting COVID-19 and charge that 
Pelosi has slow-walked the negotiations to deny Trump a victory in the run-up 
to Election Day.

   Pelosi's letter to Mnuchin comes as markets are reeling from a coronavirus 
surge across the country and Washington's failure to agree on another virus 
relief package.

   "As the coronavirus surges and the stock market plummets, we are still 
awaiting the Trump Administration's promised responses on multiple items of 
critical importance," Pelosi wrote. "Your responses are critical for our 
negotiations to continue."

   Mnuchin shot back that Pelosi's letter was a "political stunt" for the 
media's benefit. He said in a response letter that Pelosi's "ALL OR NONE 
approach is hurting hard-working families NOW" by holding up more narrowly 
targeted legislation that could pass with little controversy.

   The California Democrat has played hardball in the talks and has for months 
demanded a $2 trillion-plus COVID-19 rescue deal that's larger than the 
landmark $1.8 trillion CARES Act that swept through Congress in March. 
Legislation has twice passed the House, but the GOP-held Senate has been 
gridlocked.

   The White House said Pelosi is uninterested in compromising on major issues.

   "I don't think this recovery depends on the assistance package, per se, but 
I do think unemployment assistance, (Payroll Protection Program) small business 
assistance, helping the schools --- that could have helped a lot, and it's not 
going to happen," White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Fox News. 
"The Democrats have been completely intransigent."

   Pelosi has extracted a series of concessions in the most recent round of 
talks without giving much in return, the White House says, and Pelosi's jibes 
at Mnuchin were delivered to Politico in an early morning PR offensive.

   Recent weeks of secretive talks have been accompanied by lots of optimistic 
rhetoric from Pelosi and at times from her administration counterparts --- but 
no results. Meanwhile, many Senate Republicans have broken with Trump, who was 
eager for a deal that would have let him issue another round of $1,200 direct 
payments in his name. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell advised Trump 
against a deal before the election, warning it would divide Republicans.

   Pelosi said Thursday that she is confident that Joe Biden will win the White 
House and said that wrapping up COVID-19 relief legislation in the lame-duck 
session would help get a Biden administration off to a quick start. But she 
brushed aside any suggestion that she would need to display more flexibility to 
get any measure signed by Trump.

   "I want a bill for two reasons. First and foremost, the American people need 
help,. They need real help," Pelosi told reporters. "And second of all, we have 
plenty of work to do in a Joe Biden administration."

   The failure of the talks, along with a third, frightening wave of 
coronavirus cases sweeping the country, has sent markets plummeting and is sure 
to bring heat on lawmakers to resolve their differences after the election. But 
such lame-duck sessions --- especially if there is a change in Washington's 
balance of power --- often fail to deliver.

 
 
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