Stimulus talks not dead yet as Trump floats $1.8 trillion deal

White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow talks with reporters outside the White House about coronavirus relief package negotiations on Friday. (Evan Vucci/AP photo via Courthouse News)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Three days after calling off negotiations on another coronavirus stimulus package before the election, President Donald Trump reversed coursed Friday and will extend a $1.8 trillion offer to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“The president has approved a revised package, he would like to do a deal,” Larry Kudlow, an economic advisor to the president, said in a Fox News interview Friday.

Trump tweeted Friday morning that talks for relief negotiations were “moving along,” although days earlier he used his preferred social media platform to pull the plug on a deal before Election Day. The president said on Tuesday that the White House had offered a “very generous” $1.6 trillion deal and accused Pelosi and House Democrats of “not negotiating in good faith.”

But Friday, Kudlow told Fox Business host Stuart Varney the president would offer a broad-based package, specific details of which were still being “hashed out.” Several reports cited sources saying the latest offer is for a $1.8 trillion relief package.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows are expected to reach out to Pelosi about the deal Friday afternoon, Kudlow said.

“It’s never been a totally purist position, it was just a question as to where that money would go and how efficiently and smart that money might be and what the sums are,” he said. “I can’t possibly go into any specifics.”

Those specifics have been batted back and forth between negotiating sides for months. House Democrats passed the $3 trillion Heroes Act in May, approving hundreds of billions of dollars in funding for state and local governments. The bill provided $375 billion for localities to deal with the pandemic and $500 billion for states, including for Covid-19 testing and contract tracing.

But GOP officials countered with much smaller offers throughout the summer and fall.  For example, an estimated $1 trillion economic relief bill proposed in July included $105 billion for schools, less than half of the $300 billion sought by Democrats and $95 billion less than the amount recommended by a collection of educator groups.

The House passed a smaller $2.2 trillion version of its bill earlier this month, which would send $436 billion to state, local and territorial governments if passed. The bill is not expected to receive a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.

House lawmakers are on a scheduled October recess so they can campaign in their districts ahead of Election Day, but Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said they could be called back to Washington with 24 hours’ notice to vote on an aid package.

As the negotiations were set to continue Friday, Pelosi and Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland introduced a bill earlier in the day that would create a nonpartisan commission to inspect Trump’s mental fitness. The Senate is not expected to vote on the legislation.

In an MSNBC interview with reporter Craig Melvin on Friday, Pelosi said the bill was about the Constitution and the continuity of government. She said she did not know if Trump should, at this point, be removed from power under the 25th Amendment.

“That’s not my judgment,” she said. “That’s why we’re establishing this. Specifically, to have a bipartisan commission to make that kind of judgment.”

Pelosi said she would speak to White House negotiators again on Friday because it was “so necessary to meet the needs of the American people.”

“We thought we were on a path, and then the president, with no notice to Congress…I think even bewildering some of his own people… then made his tweet saying the talks are over because I want the focus to strictly be on confirming my Supreme Court nominee,” she said. “And that was his purpose…to overturn the Affordable Care Act, take away your preexisting condition benefit and other benefits as well.”