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 McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerWhite House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Schumer declines to say whether Trump executive orders are legal: They don't 'do the job' Schumer: Idea that 0 unemployment benefit keeps workers away from jobs 'belittles the American people' 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 PelosiWhite House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Sunday shows - Trump coronavirus executive orders reverberate Pelosi: 'Of course there's room for compromise' on 0-per-week unemployment benefit 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 John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran 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 Terner MnuchinWhite House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Sunday shows - Trump coronavirus executive orders reverberate Pelosi: 'Of course there's room for compromise' on 0-per-week unemployment benefit MORE and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsMeadows says he wants Trump nomination speech 'miles and miles away' from White House Pelosi: 'Of course there's room for compromise' on 0-per-week unemployment benefit Pelosi, Schumer slam Trump executive orders, call for GOP to come back to negotiating table 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."