McConnell, Schumer trade accusations as clock ticks on unemployment benefits

Senate leaders traded shots at one another on Thursday with negotiations going nowhere on a coronavirus relief package and additional unemployment benefits for millions of people set to expire on Friday. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Klain on Harris breaking tie: 'Every time she votes, we win' How to pass legislation in the Senate without eliminating the filibuster MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerRon Johnson forces reading of 628-page Senate coronavirus relief bill on floor Senate panel splits along party lines on Becerra House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade MORE (D-N.Y.), speaking back-to-back on the Senate floor, described the talks with administration officials as largely stalled. 

McConnell blamed House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels Top Republican: 'Outrageous' to extend National Guard deployment at Capitol Progressives won't oppose bill over limits on stimulus checks MORE (D-Calif.) and Schumer, who he said had forbidden rank-and-file Democrats from negotiating with Republicans. 

"Either our Democratic colleagues come to the table or the American people won't get the help they need," McConnell said. "The House Speaker moves the goalposts while the Democratic leader hides the football. They won't engage when the administration tries to discuss our comprehensive plan. They won't engage when the administration floats a narrower proposal."

"They basically won't engage, period," he said.

Schumer compared trying to strike a deal with the administration as "trying to nail jello to the wall."

"It's clear that Senate Republicans don't have a unified position on anything. ... Who's holding things up? Who's standing in the way? Leader McConnell and his Republican caucus [are] certainly at the top of the list. And President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE is all over the lot. .... The president seems to endorse a different policy every time he finds a microphone," Schumer said.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinBiden cautious in making Trump tax returns decision Biden brings back bipartisan meetings at the White House On The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears MORE and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsHow scientists saved Trump's FDA from politics Liberals howl after Democrats cave on witnesses Kinzinger calls for people with info on Trump to come forward MORE have met with Schumer and Pelosi three times this week, and are expected to meet again on Thursday. But Meadows and Mnuchin both described them as being "far away" and "nowhere near" an agreement.

Though Mnuchin said there were areas of potential agreement like Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding, schools and aid for community banks, he and Meadows also ticked off significant provisions where they say they are deeply divided with Democrats, including on unemployment insurance, liability protections from coronavirus lawsuits and aid to state and local governments.

The administration, and a growing number of Senate Republicans, have floated either doing a short-term extension of the unemployment benefits — something rejected by Democrats — or a smaller deal, though GOP senators have acknowledged there is not even cohesion among Republican senators about what would be included in such a bill.

"We are still very far apart on a lot of issues," Mnuchin told reporters after the latest round of talks. "I do think there's a subset of issues that we do agree on, but overall we're far from an agreement."