(CNN)House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows are expected to hold a call later Thursday on coronavirus relief legislation, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The two haven’t spoken since talks imploded weeks ago and negotiators walked away without a deal intended to bolster the economy and help struggling Americans pay their bills amid the pandemic. There is little optimism on either side of Pennsylvania Avenue that there will be any progress on stimulus talks before lawmakers return to Washington in September, as the two sides remain far apart on even the general scope of a package, let alone the granular policy details of one.But the fact that Pelosi and Meadows will talk — after partisan blaming and spending the last several weeks talking past and around one another through the press — represents the first tangible step toward restarting negotiations since they broke down.Democrats have insisted on a topline of above $2 trillion that includes nearly $1 trillion in aid for state and local governments. The White House has firmly opposed that topline price tag and has rejected substantial new aid for states and localities.Read MorePelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday that the conversation could be “very short” if Republicans aren’t willing to meet them in the middle and accept a $2 trillion package. “If they are willing to meet us in the middle, then we can sit down and talk,” Pelosi said. “You called me? I’m returning your call. Are you ready to bring much more money to the table?” She said the conversation on Thursday is only happening to respect the fact that President Donald Trump’s representative — “not even the lead negotiator,” she said of Meadows — has reached out. She said she views Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as the lead negotiator. “We do not have shared values. That’s why it’s very hard to come to an agreement on this,” she said. Pelosi is facing pressure from rank-and-file members to restart negotiations with the White House. Nearly half of House Democrats signed a letter last week urging her to pass a stand-alone unemployment insurance bill.On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Pelosi insisted that her caucus is standing together in its approach to negotiating another round of coronavirus relief legislation with the Trump administration.Meadows on Wednesday told Politico that he’s “not optimistic” a deal will be reached until after September, and predicted that Pelosi would run the clock out until the fiscal year deadline at the end of September to get Democratic priorities into a funding measure.Pelosi has been resistant to the idea of rolling relief efforts into a funding measure, arguing that an agreement is needed now.Democrats have also rejected a piecemeal approach, making clear they won’t agree to anything that doesn’t address their full view of the current needs.But on Saturday, House lawmakers returned early from August recess and voted largely along party lines to allocate $25 billion to the US Postal Service, a bill which the White House has threatened to veto. The vote prompted Meadows to tweet at Democrats, arguing, “If you really want to help Americans, how about passing relief for small businesses and unemployment assistance ALONG with postal funding?”This story has been updated to include comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.