Negotiations for an economic stimulus package in response to the upheaval wrought by attempts to stem the spread of the Coronavirus have dragged on for days at this point. Over the weekend, figures involved trumpeted confidence — and then a key vote to advance the stimulus package in the Senate failed not once but twice. This Tuesday during a phoned-in appearance on CNBC with host Jim Cramer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) seemed to indicate that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had agreed to oversight of the usage of an included $500 billion fund for business loans that Democrats had previously derided as a favoritism-inducing slush fund, which was a “big sticking point” for Democrats, one reporter noted.
A WH official confirms that Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has agreed to "significant oversight" over $500B Exchange Stabilization Fund.
This was a big sticking point for Democrats who called it a slush fund and wanted much more oversight on how the money was spent.
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) March 24, 2020
Pelosi explained that Democrats have been attempting to manage a stimulus package that takes into account the needs of those on all sides of the situation. As she put it:
‘I can say we’re all receptive to getting something done. We all know that everybody doesn’t write their own bill, that it’s a series of compromises, and we think the bill has moved sufficiently to the side of workers… We’re actually talking to the employers… This isn’t a conversation with workers and not with the airlines or other industries, hospitality, parking, you name it, restaurants, you go down the list, discreetly trying to address their problem. So it is not a one-sided conversation on our part. However, things like a $500 billion slush fund was really insulting.’
An initial proposal that Pelosi’s own side released did also feature “$500 billion in grants and interest-free loans to small businesses,” Axios notes, but that proposed money was slated to get delivered with apparent oversight. The Democratic plan also featured expansions for paid sick leave, family medical leave, and large sums to support hard-hit institutions like hospitals and public schools. Now, as the plan stands at present, there will “be an inspector general who has oversight over the $500 billion loan program to corporations,” which is a significant win for the Democrats.
Pelosi on CNBC says “I think there is real optimism that we could get something done in the next few hours.”
There’ll be an inspector general who has oversight over the $500 billion loan program to corporations.
This is key—Senate Dems yesterday were calling this a “slush fund”
— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) March 24, 2020
As Pelosi put it:
‘Everyone appreciates the gravity of the situation… the need, timing is everything. But again, this is a multifaceted approach that we have to take with all of this, and addressing the needs of the workers — it’s desperate.’
She also countered the narrative that delays have been all the Democrats’ fault. In fact, she revealed, Republicans have been harping on against basic provisions like food purchase assistance for hard-hit families.
‘Last night, I thought we were at a good place, and then they said, we’re not doing food stamps. If they don’t do that, people are hungry, they don’t have food. Now more than ever we need some of those kinds of initiatives. And again, a formula that is specific to COVID-19.’
While she and her colleagues have been working to develop a stimulus package in response to the real needs of the American people, Trump has been tweeting — and tweeting and tweeting and tweeting. He has insisted that the economy should perhaps be reopened to protect financial states no matter the carnage that may ensue if the Coronavirus is thereby allowed to spread unchecked. With strict measures in place, almost 600 Americans have already died from the virus.