Pelosi, Mnuchin reach agreement to avert a government shutdown, still at an impasse on COVID-19 deal

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have reached an informal deal to prevent the federal government from shutting down on Oct. 1, USA Today and Politico report. The agreement would extend existing funding levels until after the Nov. 3 election, probably through mid-December. Mnuchin and Pelosi came to their understanding on Tuesday while talking on the phone about a COVID-19 economic relief bill, USA Today reports. The two sides are still billions of dollars apart on a COVID-19 package.

Pelosi and Mnuchin did not “explicitly discuss” folding COVID-19 relief into the continuing resolution and also “did not rule it out,” USA Today says. Congress has only a few weeks to pass any legislation before the election, and the compressed time frame might “force lawmakers’ hands” on a COVID-19 bill, says George Washington University political scientist Sarah Binder. Either way, “nobody really wants to be blamed” for the “catastrophic blow” of another government shutdown in the middle of a pandemic.

“When senators return next week, they are expected to vote on the GOP’s ‘skinny’ (i.e. stripped-down) COVID relief bill — they’re going to call it ‘targeted,’ because some think skinny sounds bad,” Politico reported Wednesday. (“It would be more appropriate to call it ’emaciated,'” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday.) “Remember: This bill is not meant to become law, but rather to serve as a marker for where Senate Republicans stand when negotiations begin in earnest,” Politico adds. “Senate Republicans have yet to garner 51 votes for anything, so this is a step in the right direction for them.”

And things can still go awry with the Pelosi-Mnuchin plan to avert a government shutdown. “There are, at most, 11 days in session for the two sides to pass government funding, and solve the stimulus riddle that’s had Pelosi, Mnuchin, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows tied up for months,” Politico notes. “That’s not much time.” Peter Weber

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