Coronavirus stimulus: Democratic congresswoman says Mnuchin's $1.8T offer would bring relief

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D., Virg.) is breaking with Democratic leadership and making the case that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s latest $1.8 trillion stimulus offer would “meaningfully help” people.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and the Democratic chairs of House committees have panned the White House proposal as “grossly inadequate,” “weak” and “a transparent attempt to score political points.”

“I am hearing from people everywhere I go about the challenges they're facing — paying their rent, paying their mortgage, small-business owners who are teetering on the edge of losing everything that they've worked for while other small businesses already have. The need for relief is immense and it is immediate,” said Spanberger in an interview with Yahoo Finance.

When asked if Pelosi should accept the $1.8 trillion proposal, Spanberger said it “comprises elements of everything that Democrats have been advocating for.”

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va. walks to a closed Democratic Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va. walks to a closed Democratic Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The congresswoman pointed to additional direct payments, aid for small businesses and enhanced unemployment benefits, money for the postal service as positive pieces of the White House proposal. Spanberger said she would “look forward to voting for it” if those elements made it in a bill.

“There may be additional areas of relief that need to be addressed later, but the proposal that's been put forth is pretty large. Talking about a dollar amount versus the programs comprised in this proposal, I think gets off topic — and the topic is, if this were to pass tomorrow and be signed into law tomorrow, would we deliver relief to the American people who need it? And the answer is yes.”

‘The distraction of arguing about a dollar amount’

Democratic leaders insist the White House offer isn’t enough and are pushing for a $2.2 trillion plan. Even as negotiators have gotten closer on the dollar figure, both sides have acknowledged there are remaining policy differences as well.

Spanberger, a moderate Democrat and member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, told Yahoo Finance she’s disappointed in how long negotiations are taking between Mnuchin and Pelosi.

“The distraction of arguing about a dollar amount takes the conversation away from the programs that will deliver the relief and the aid that we need now, that the American people need now, that our economy needs now,” said Spanberger.

In an interview with CNN this week, when asked about other Democrats — Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang — who are encouraging Pelosi to take the $1.8 trillion offer, Pelosi dismissed their arguments, saying they weren’t the ones negotiating the deal.

“They have no idea of the particulars. They have no idea of what the language is here,” she said.

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 9: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference to discuss  legislation that would create a commission to allow Congress to intervene under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution and remove the president from executive duties, at the Capitol in Washington on Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Mnuchin has admitted it would be difficult to secure a deal before the election at this point. Even if Mnuchin and Pelosi come to an agreement, getting it through the Republican-controlled Senate will be a challenge. Several Senate Republicans opposed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s skinny stimulus proposal earlier this summer, and even more will argue the price tag of a Mnuchin-Pelosi deal is too high.

“I just can't begin to comprehend conversations senators are or are not having with their constituents if they don't see a need for the unemployment, continued PPP and direct payments to people,” said Spanberger.

In 2018, Spanberger became the first Democrat to win Virginia’s 7th Congressional district since 1968. Heading into Election Day, Spanberger said she’s feeling good about the prospect of keeping her seat.

“I continue to advocate for common sense steps forward when it comes to relief and how we're dealing with the pandemic,” Spanberger said. “Our district is a reasonable place where the expectation is that people will work together despite political party and despite ideology to actually get things done.”

Jessica Smith is a reporter for Yahoo Finance based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at @JessicaASmith8.

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