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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office said Saturday evening that there were some “encouraging news on testing” in the latest round of discussions surrounding the next coronavirus stimulus package.
Pelosi spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Saturday evening, according to Drew Hammill, deputy chief of staff at the speaker’s office.
“While there was some encouraging news on testing, there remains work to do to ensure there is a comprehensive testing plan that includes contact tracing and additional measures to address the virus’ disproportionate impact on communities of color,” Hammill tweeted.
“There remains an array of additional differences as we go provision by provision that must be addressed in a comprehensive manner in the next 48 hours,” Hammill continued.
The Speaker and Secretary Mnuchin spoke at 7:40 p.m. by phone tonight for just over an hour. While there was some encouraging news on testing, there remains work to do to ensure there is a comprehensive testing plan that includes contact tracing and additional measures to…(1/3)
— Drew Hammill (@Drew_Hammill) October 18, 2020
The next stimulus package remains stalled in Congress, as Democrats and Republicans continue to hammer out the details of the plan. House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus plan earlier this month, but Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called the amount “outlandish” and said the two parties remain “very, very far apart on a deal.”
The White House has also proposed its own $1.8 trillion plan, which includes $1,200 direct payments, a $400 weekly federal unemployment benefit, $300 billion in aid to state and local governments, and some funding for virus testing and contact tracing.
Lawmakers were quick to point out the plan’s deficiencies, with Pelosi saying in a letter to House Democrats that the parameters for expanded nationwide testing and tracing program are not well-defined.
“The Administration continues to refuse to put a national testing, tracing and surveillance plan in place,” said New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone in the letter. “[The Trump plan] would also needlessly delay funding to states by requiring states to jump through legislative hoops that are simply unnecessary. It does nothing to address the barriers and needs of communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”
Mnuchin, however, said earlier this week on CNBC that the lack of agreement on testing will not derail the coronavirus stimulus package.
“That issue is getting overblown,” Mnuchin said. “We’ve agreed to $178 billion overall for health. It’s an extraordinary amount of money. We’d agreed with the Democrats with $75 billion going to testing, contact tracing.”
“What we have been focused on is the language around testing,” Mnuchin said, adding that the White House will not “let the testing issue stand in the way.”
Meanwhile, the Republicans are still rejecting the large plans proposed by both the House Democrats and the White House, urging instead for a significantly smaller package in the amount of $500 billion.
The White House did not immediately return Business Insider’s request for comment.
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Source:: Business Insider