The White House is projecting optimism in negotiations with Democrats on stimulus legislation, saying that the goal is to reach an agreement within the next 48 hours.
“I am optimistic. We do share one goal and that is hopefully to get some kind of deal in the next 48 hours or so,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said in an interview on Fox Business on Wednesday morning, discussing ongoing talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Meadows said the discussions had entered a “new phase” as the White House and Democratic negotiators wrangle over language of a potential bill, though he noted that the two sides remain apart on the price tag. Meadows cited state and local assistance as the primary source of disagreement.
“I can tell you that the negotiations have entered a new phase, which is more on the technical side of trying to get the language right if we can agree upon the numbers,” Meadows said. “We are still apart, still a number of issues to work on, but the last 24 hours have moved the ball down the field.”
Speaking to reporters later Wednesday, White House communications director Alyssa Farah likewise said that officials were optimistic there could be “some movement” on a potential deal within 48 hours.
"The president's position is we're willing to go up on the number for PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] loans and the direct payments,” Farah told reporters at the White House. “Some of the issues still surround state and local and some of the other issues but we're at the table, conversations are happening. I think it's kind of the best place we've been in, so cautious optimism."
Aides had already reported progress following another phone call on stimulus between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday. The pair have been speaking daily and are expected to talk again on Wednesday.
But the White House could face opposition from Republicans even in the event a deal with Pelosi is reached. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has pushed back on a price tag at or above the White House’s current $1.8 trillion offer, on Tuesday publicly committed to bringing it to a vote on the Senate floor but did not say he would do so before Election Day on Nov. 3.
McConnell reportedly told GOP senators privately that he had warned the White House against reaching an agreement with Pelosi before the election because it could disrupt the confirmation of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
Meadows, in an exchange with reporters on Wednesday, denied receiving any such warning from McConnell and said he believed there would be adequate votes in the Senate to get a deal approved that Trump could sign.
“The focus on Senate Republicans right now and whether the votes will be there or not is misplaced focus. It needs to be focused on Speaker Pelosi, and is she going to be reasonable,” Meadows told reporters following his Fox interview.
Trump has similarly dismissed discord within his party over a comprehensive stimulus package. He has pushed for a large bill after abruptly stating he would walk away from negotiations until after the election earlier this month.
"It’s very simple. I want to do it even bigger than the Democrats," Trump said on "Fox & Friends" on Tuesday. "Now, not every Republican agrees with me, but they will. But I want to do it even bigger than the Democrats, because this is money going to people that did not deserve what happened to them coming out of China.”