Pelosi urges Republicans to resume Covid-19 relief package talks

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called on Republican lawmakers to resume negotiations on a new Covid-19 relief package as the number of confirmed cases was surging across the country.

“Our focus in the Congress, now in this lame duck, continues to be on Covid-19 relief. This is a red alert,” Xinhua news agency quoted Pelosi as saying at a press briefing on Friday.

“(Senate Democratic Leader Chuck) Schumer and I discussed yesterday this is an emergency of the highest magnitude, and yet our Republican colleagues want to focus elsewhere instead of recognizing this as a health emergency which science is giving us a path to crush.

“We must save lives and livelihoods, and yet Republicans in Congress continue their tactics of delay, distort, and deny, which has led to deaths.

“I hope it would be an incentive for people to follow science all of the way to the vaccine, and in that score in our Covid-19 bill, we do have sufficient fund — a great deal of funding for the vaccine,”the Speaker added.

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been negotiating a new relief package for months, but have failed to reach an agreement.

President Donald Trump’s administration is stepping back from negotiations on the relief package and leaving it to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to revive long-stalled talks with Pelosi, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday, citing two people familiar with the matter.

While the White House probably would consult with Republican lawmakers on details of a Covid-19 relief bill, it’s now unlikely to take the lead on talks, the report said.

McConnell on Tuesday renewed his push for a focused, targeted Covid-19 relief, and denounced Democrats’ proposal as “absurd” and “socialist”.

“Our country needs more smart, focused relief that is targeted to schools, healthcare, small businesses, and those who are hurting the most,” McConnell said in a tweet.

The Democrats-controlled House of Representatives in early October passed a $2.2 trillion relief bill.

Some Senate Republicans, however, insisted on a relief package below $1 trillion, and failed to advance a $500 billion bill in late October.

Economists, as well as Federal Reserve officials, have repeatedly argued that more fiscal relief is needed to sustain the US economic recovery, warning of dire consequences if further fiscal support is not provided in time.