U.S. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, leaves after her weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8, 2020. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP

Pelosi ‘at the table’ even after Trump scrapped virus talks

Associated Press Oct 8, 2020
U.S. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, leaves after her weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8, 2020. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she’s “at the table” ready to negotiate a coronavirus aid package after President Donald Trump abruptly halted talks and left the economy reeling, his GOP allies scrambling and millions of Americans without additional support weeks before Election Day.

Pelosi said she told Trump’s chief negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, she is willing to consider a measure to prop up the airline industry, which is facing widespread layoffs. But that aid, she said, must go alongside broader legislation that includes the kind of COVID testing, tracing and health practices that Democrats say are needed as part of a national strategy to “crush the virus.”

“Lives are at stake,” Pelosi said at the Capitol. “This is deadly serious.”

In a stunning admission, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that he had stopped going to the White House two months ago because he disagreed with its coronavirus protocols. His last visit was Aug. 6.

“My impression was their approach to how to handle this was different from mine and what I insisted we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” McConnell said at a campaign stop in northern Kentucky for his own reelection.

The sharp words from all sides after Trump lashed out at Congress come during the final weeks in a campaign year fast turning into a referendum on Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

Republican allies are peeling away from Trump, with some calling his decision to withdraw from virus aid talks a mistake. Normally, the splintering could provide grounds for a robust package, but with other Republicans refusing to spending more money, it appears no relief will be coming with Americans already beginning early voting.

McConnell held out hope that “we ought to continue to talk” even as several of his own senators said they do not want to pass more aid. More than 210,000 Americans have died and millions more are infected with a virus that shows no signs of abating heading into what public health experts warn will be a difficult flu season and winter.

“There’s no question that the proximity to the election has made this much more challenging,” McConnell said.

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