Democratic leader, White House official continue relief talks as Election Day draws close

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday continued COVID-19 relief talks, which "provided more clarity and common ground," said Drew Hammill, Pelosi's spokesman and deputy chief of staff.

"The Speaker and Secretary Mnuchin spoke at 3:00 p.m. today for approximately 45 minutes. Their conversation provided more clarity and common ground as they move closer to an agreement," Hammill said in a series of tweets Tuesday afternoon.

Downplaying the importance of a 48-hour deadline previously set by Pelosi, the spokesman said "today's deadline enabled the Speaker and Secretary to see that decisions could be reached and language could be exchanged, demonstrating that both sides are serious about finding a compromise."

Hammill added the two principals will continue their discussions Wednesday afternoon.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, meanwhile, told CNBC that the two sides have made "good progress" but still need to overcome major differences to reach a deal before the presidential election, which is just two weeks away.

Meadows said he hopes those discussions will continue to make progress and could see "some kind of agreement before the weekend."

Pelosi said on Sunday that White House and congressional lawmakers must reach an agreement in 48 hours if they want to pass a new relief package before the presidential election.

Pelosi and Mnuchin held a 53-minute call on Monday, and continued to narrow their differences, according to an earlier statement from Hammill.

Despite the recent progress, Democrats and Republicans remain deadlocked on the new relief bill over two months after the extra 600-U.S.-dollar per week federal unemployment benefits -- part of a 2-trillion-dollar relief package approved by Congress in late March -- expired at the end of July.

Earlier this month, the Democrats-controlled House passed a 2.2-trillion-dollar bill, while the White House recently offered up to nearly 1.9 trillion dollars. Some Senate Republicans, however, insisted a figure below 1 trillion dollars, and plan to advance a 500-billion bill later this week.

Key sticking points in the relief talks include more aid to state and local governments, demanded by Democrats, and liability protections for businesses, sought by Republicans.

Economists, as well as Federal Reserve officials, have repeatedly argued that more fiscal relief is needed to sustain the economic recovery, warning of dire consequences if further fiscal support is not provided in time.

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