Congressional Democrats and White House officials again failed to come to a deal over coronavirus relief legislation after meeting on Friday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that he and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows will recommend that President Trump take executive action to address the economic fallout from the crisis.
"At this point we're going to recommend to the president that over the weekend we move forward with some executive actions," Mnuchin said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that she had proposed a compromise on coronavirus relief legislation to White House officials, offering to cut the bill by $1 trillion if Republicans added $1 trillion to their version, but added that this offer had been rejected.
"Yesterday I offered to them we'll take down a trillion if you add a trillion in. They said absolutely not," Pelosi told reporters about negotiations with Mnuchin and Meadows. This would bring the final proposal to north of $2 trillion. Democrats are seeking a deal similar to legislation passed by the House in May, which would cost approximately $3.4 trillion, and Republicans have proposed their own $1 trillion option.
However, Mnuchin said that the Democrats had not specifically proposed $2 trillion. He also said that Pelosi and Schumer had not budged on their insistence for a long-term extension of enhanced unemployment benefits of $600 per week to unemployed Americans that expired at the end of July.
"I think there's a lot of areas of compromise. I think if we can reach an agreement on state and local and unemployment, we will reach an overall deal and if we can't, we can't," Mnuchin said. He added that he and Meadows may recommend executive actions on the unemployment benefit, and on addressing rental foreclosures and student loans.
Meadows called the meeting "extremely disappointing," a sentiment that was echoed by Schumer. The minority leader also said that the latest meeting on Friday afternoon had been "disappointing," as the Democratic offer was again rejected.
"It was a disappointing meeting. We reiterated in very strong terms our offer. We come down a trillion from our top number which was 3.4 [trillion]. They go up a trillion, from their top number which was 1 [trillion], and that way, we could begin to meet in the middle. Unfortunately, they rejected it," Schumer said. "We're hopeful that they will think about it and come back and tell us they're willing to meet us half way."
Mnuchin and Meadows warned Thursday evening that President Trump is willing to take executive action to address the crisis if a deal is not reached with Democrats by Friday. Pelosi and Schumer met with Mnuchin and Meadows for over three hours on Thursday without coming to an agreement, and met again on Friday afternoon.
"We have a moral responsibility to find common ground, but where we can't, for our children, we must stand firm," Pelosi said. However, Mnuchin told reporters ahead of the meeting with Pelosi and Schumer that the $2 trillion figure was a "nonstarter."
In a letter to Democratic colleagues on Friday, Pelosi outlined the outstanding issues, including funding for schools, assisting Americans facing housing insecurity, and offering election assistance and support for the Postal Service ahead of the November election. Schumer told reporters Friday that he pushed the White House last night to include $3.6 billion for the states to hold elections, including vote by mail, but Meadows and Mnuchin refused.
"Why are they resisting?" Schumer asked. He also criticized Meadows, who was previously a member of the hardline conservative Freedom Caucus as a member of the House, saying his "positions are quite hardened and non-compromising, more so than Mnuchin."
Pelosi and Schumer contended after their meeting on Thursday that Republicans do not understand the scope of the problem.
"We had what I would call a consequential meeting. It was one where we could see the difference in values that we bring to the table. We have always said that the Republicans and the president do not understand the gravity of the situation, and every time that we have met, it has been reinforced," Pelosi said.
Pelosi said on Thursday morning that "we have to move more quickly because the light at the end of the tunnel may be the freight train of the virus coming at us if we do not act to contain it."
"Republicans want to apply just a Band-Aid," Schumer added, referring to the White House offer for a short-term extension of the unemployment benefits. "We won't let them just pass the Band-Aid, go home and leave America bleeding."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday that the Senate would not adjourn for its August recess until a deal was reached. Senators "will have 24-hour notice before a vote, but the Senate will be convening on Monday, and I will be right here in Washington," McConnell said. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced last week that the House would be canceling its August recess.
Some Republicans have argued that the $600 per week benefit would incentivize Americans to remain unemployed if they were making more on unemployment insurance than they were at their old jobs. Pelosi has repeatedly scoffed at the Republican proposal introduced last week which would have provided an additional $200 per week in unemployment benefits.
She has also shot down the idea that they could consider a short-term extension of the benefit if a deal could not be reached.
First published on August 6, 2020 / 12:16 PM
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