U.S. House speaker, treasury secretary continue relief talks as differences remain in virus testing

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday continued COVID-19 relief talks, but the two sides still have not resolved their differences on a national testing and tracing plan for the virus.

"As the nation faces record spikes in new COVID cases, we continue to eagerly await the Administration's acceptance of our health language, which includes a national strategic plan on testing and tracing," Drew Hammill, Pelosi's spokesman and deputy chief of staff, said on Twitter Monday afternoon.

"We are hopeful their response will be positive as we also await the outcomes of talks between committee chairs," Hammill said, adding Pelosi remains optimistic that an agreement can be reached before the presidential election in November.

In a separate statement released Monday, Pelosi reiterated that the United States cannot safely reopen schools and the economy unless "we have a national plan for testing, tracing, treatment, mask-wearing, social distancing and other science-based steps to crush the virus and combat the disparities facing communities of color."

"In all of our legislation, we have stressed the importance of testing, but the Administration has never followed through," Pelosi said, urging the Trump administration to "come to agreement as soon as possible."

Earlier this month, the Democrats-controlled House passed a 2.2-trillion-U.S. dollar relief bill, while the White House recently offered up to nearly 1.9 trillion dollars. However, some Senate Republicans insisted a figure below 1 trillion dollars.

"It is clear that our progress depends on Leader McConnell agreeing to bipartisan, comprehensive legislation to crush the virus, honor our heroes - our essential workers - and put money in the pockets of the American people," Hammill said, referring to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

With just eight days left before Election Day, the lack of an imminent agreement largely extinguished prospects of any legislation being written, voted on, and signed into law by President Donald Trump by Nov. 3, according to Bloomberg News.

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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