When multiple leaks in coronavirus relief talks were occuring, Speaker Nancy Pelosi instituted a cell phone ban so that talks couldn’t be recorded.
On Wednesday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was refusing to surrender his phone, citing an important incoming call that he couldn’t miss. When Pelosi told him that his phone had to go, or he did, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin brokered a deal that one of his staffers would hold Meadows’ phone outside the meetings and alert him when the call came.
The incident seemed indicative of the difficult negotiations to follow, and Pelosi began to refer to Meadows as “The Enforcer,” there to ensure that Mnuchin wouldn’t make a deal with Democrats.
Unlike in previous rounds, when Pelosi held out for a better deal for Democrats and ultimately forced major concessions from Republicans, this time administration officials, led by Meadows, walked away. Now, Democrats are facing questions about their tactics and whether playing hard ball will continue to work when someone like Meadows is intimately involved.
Meadows argued publicly and privately that Democrats weren’t serious about making a deal, despite the fact that Democrats had negotiated successfully four bi-partisan deals in March and April, essentially before Meadows officially became chief of staff.
“His positions are quite hardened and non-compromising, more so than Mnuchin,” Schumer told reporters on Friday. Schumer contended that in the case of Meadows and others associated with the Tea Party, “Ideology sort of blinds them.”
For two weeks, the four chief negotiators struggled to agree on the overall price tag of the relief bill, let alone the details. Yet Mnuchin would emerge from talks hopeful of progress, while Meadows emphasized how poorly the talks were going and how far apart they were from making a deal.