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Pelosi, Mnuchin had productive talks on coronavirus relief, spokesman says

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had a productive discussion about coronavirus relief proposals on Wednesday, but the administration’s lack of a national strategic testing plan remains a “major area of disagreement,” a Pelosi spokesman said.

“In response to proposals sent over the weekend, the two spent time seeking clarification on language, which was productive,” Drew Hammill, deputy chief of staff for the California Democrat, said on Twitter, noting that Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke for about an hour.

They will speak again on Thursday and staff would continue to “exchange paper,” Hammill said.

The White House as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress are under mounting pressure to hammer out a bipartisan fiscal stimulus deal to help Americans weather a pandemic that has killed nearly 216,000 people and damaged the U.S. economy.

But prospects for a breakthrough ahead of the Nov. 3 U.S. election continue to be dim, with the two sides still far apart on priorities and Senate Republicans resisting a $1.8 trillion offer that Mnuchin proposed last week. Pelosi has called for a $2.2 trillion aid package.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in Congress, announced that the Senate would vote next week on a slimmed down $500 billion COVID-19 bill, which Democrats are likely to reject.

Congress passed about $3 trillion in coronavirus aid, including help for the unemployed, in March.

Reporting by Tim Ahmann, Susan Cornwell and David Morgan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao

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