© Bonnie CashPelosi: White House made 'unacceptable changes' to testing language during negotiations on coronavirus stimulus
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused White House officials of making "unacceptable changes" to language concerning funding for COVID-19 testing efforts in the framework of an emerging coronavirus relief deal.
In a letter to House Democrats released by the Speaker's office Sunday afternoon, Pelosi accused the White House of refusing to commit funding for a national coronavirus testing and contact tracing program, as well as trying to create a "slush fund" from which the administration could offer grants to various entities at its own discretion.
"These changes make the funding a slush fund for the Administration which 'may' grant or withhold rather than a prescribed, funded plan to crush the virus. It is important to note the impact in terms of the disparity facing communities of color: a Latino child is eight times more likely to have to go to the hospital because of COVID-19 than a white child, and a Black child is five times more likely," Pelosi said, adding, "We want all of our children protected."
White House officials did not immediately return a request for comment on the House leader's remarks.
Her fiery statement follows what had appeared to be promising developments in the negotiations surrounding a stimulus package, for which President Trump has renewed calls in recent weeks as he trails his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden (D), in most national and battleground state polling.
A Saturday evening statement from Drew Hammill, Pelosi's chief of staff, indicated that there had been "encouraging news on testing" during a call between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that day, which lasted around an hour.
"While there was some encouraging news on testing, there remains work to do to ensure there is a comprehensive testing plan that includes contact tracing and additional measures to address the virus' disproportionate impact on communities of color," Hammill said.
"Decisions must be made by the White House in order to demonstrate that the Administration is serious about reaching a bipartisan agreement that provides for Americans with the greatest needs during the pandemic," he continued.
He also indicated in a tweet Saturday that the White House had roughly 48 hours to reach an agreement with Democrats for there to be any chance of passing a stimulus agreement before Election Day, a statement the Speaker confirmed to ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.
"The 48 only relates to if we want to get it done before the election, which we do," she told ABC News. "I'm optimistic because, again, we've been back and forth on all of this."