House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe House’s stake in filibuster reform Centrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote House to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power MORE (D-Md.) told rank-and-file Democrats on a conference call that he plans to bring the slimmed-down $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package to the floor Wednesday afternoon if no deal with the White House materializes before then, according to sources on the call.
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP seeks to redirect criticism over Trump tax returns House rebuffs GOP lawmaker’s effort to remove references to Democrats in Capitol Grassley says disclosing Trump’s tax records without authorization could violate law MORE (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTreasury offers coronavirus relief loans to seven major US airlines House GOP leaders rally opposition to Democrats’ scaled-down COVID bill On The Money: Biden releases 2019 tax returns hours before first debate | COVID relief talks hit do-or-die moment | Disney to layoff 28K workers MORE were expected to meet in Pelosi’s office in the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, their first in-person meeting on the coronavirus in weeks. Both sides have hinted at progress in recent days, sparking some hopes that an eleventh-hour agreement will emerge after two months of stalled negotiations.
On the call, Hoyer, who controls the floor schedule, also told lawmakers to keep their schedules flexible on Thursday and Friday, suggesting Democratic leaders believe they are close to a breakthrough.
“They believe a deal is within reach,” said one Democratic lawmaker on the conference call.
Hoyer’s announcement of a vote is likely a negotiating tactic aimed at upping pressure on President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Trump-Biden debate clash The Memo: Debate or debacle? Democrats rip Trump for not condemning white supremacists, Proud Boys at debate MORE, who is struggling to deal with a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 in the U.S., shuttered schools and put millions out of work.
Communication has picked up in recent days between Pelosi and Mnuchin, the leading negotiators on COVID-19 relief. They’ve spoken on a daily basis since Sunday, including a lengthy 50-minute phone call on Tuesday that gave lawmakers hope that a deal could get done before Election Day.
Appearing on CNBC, Mnuchin gave more signs that things were moving in the right direction. He said the White House’s counteroffer will be in the ballpark of $1.5 trillion, similar to the bipartisan relief package offered last week by the Problem Solvers Caucus.
“We’re going to give it one more serious try to get this done, and I think we’re hopeful that we can get something done,” Mnuchin said. “I think there’s a reasonable compromise here.”
Naomi Jagoda and Mike Lillis contributed.