Pelosi, Mnuchin fail to reach COVID-19 stimulus deal, but talks go on amid Republican doubts

By David Morgan and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - US House of Representatives spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to agree on a COVID-19 stimulus package on Friday while the Senate top Republican expressed doubts that Congress will come before the Jan. 3 elections. November would act.
Mnuchin launched a new $ 1.8 trillion proposal on a 30-minute phone call Friday afternoon, according to the White House. But Pelosi advisor Drew Hamill said the offer lacks a comprehensive plan to contain the pandemic. Talks will continue, he said.
"We are still waiting for the administration's language as negotiations on the total funding amount continue," Hamill said on Twitter.
The White House's new package was higher than a previous Mnuchin offer of $ 1.6 trillion and closer to the $ 2.2 trillion the Democratically controlled House of Representatives passed last week.
White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said the government wants to keep spending below $ 2 trillion but is keen to launch a new round of direct payments to American individuals, as well as aid to small businesses and airlines.
"We want to believe that the spokesperson is working in good faith and that we can make some progress in the near future," Farah said.
It was the third day in a row that Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke to each other this week.
Optimism over a possible deal lifted US stock prices, setting the stage for the second straight weekly market gain on Wall Street.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in Congress, said he doubted lawmakers would pass a package ahead of the elections, even though he wasn't directly involved in the talks.
"The proximity to the elections and the disagreement over what is needed at this point in time are pretty big," McConnell said at a news conference in his home state of Kentucky.
Senate Republicans have warned they may not support a package near the $ 2 trillion mark.
Republican President Donald Trump, who initially pulled out of negotiations this week to regain interest in forging a bipartisan deal, said he was open to a bigger deal.
"I honestly would like a bigger stimulus package than either the Democrats or the Republicans are offering," he said in an interview with Rush Limbaugh, the host of the conservative radio talk show.
In an MSNBC interview, Pelosi highlighted the need for state and local governments to help pay salaries for police, healthcare workers and other first responders.
This has proven to be an important dividing line over months of negotiations. The pandemic infected at least 7.6 million people in the U.S. and killed more than 212,000 people.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Steve Holland; additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Alexandra Alper, Mana Rabiee, Richard Cowan, Lisa Lambert and Andy Sullivan; editing by Howard Goller, Cynthia Osterman and Grant McCool)

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