Hopes for a restart of talks over a large-scale economic stimulus package, or even more targeted aid for the troubled airline industry, took a big hit Thursday after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she still wanted a big bargain.
“There is no stand-alone bill without a bigger bill. There is no bill,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol.
Pelosi was responding to a question asking if she would accept a stand-alone bill aimed at providing a second round of grants to passenger and cargo airlines to help them retain workers.
Pelosi had previously been open to the idea after President Donald Trump appeared to have second thoughts about scuttling negotiations Tuesday and tweeted later that night he wanted a stand-alone airline bill.
Trump earlier Wednesday morning, in a phone interview with Fox Business Network, had said stimulus talks were going well, raising hopes for either an airline package or a renewal of talks for a bigger package.
Pelosi spent much of her time at the press conference touting a Democratic proposal to provide $75 billion for coronavirus testing and tracing, an issue she pointed to as a sticking point in talks because of administration recalcitrance.
“We have our differences in numbers, but it’s no use of having just a numbers discussion unless we know what that money is spent on,” she said.
The political popularity of moving another package before the election instead of waiting for the postelection lame duck session has made both sides reluctant to be seen publicly as the one cutting off talks. But Trump provided an opening for Democrats with his Tuesday tweet saying the Senate should give priority to confirming a new U.S. Supreme Court justice over the stimulus.
Trump later walked that back by tweeting he wanted legislation on airlines and payments to households. Similarly, Pelosi appeared to leave some room open to more talks as well as she left the press conference.
“We’ve told the White House we’re at the table. We’re at the table,” she said. “We want to continue the conversation. We’ve made some progress, we’re exchanging language. And then, so, we’ll see how they come back.”