Coronavirus stimulus talks roll into Monday as negotiators fail to clinch deal

Coronavirus stimulus talks roll into Monday as negotiators fail to clinch deal
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Negotiations over a mammoth stimulus package to address the coronavirus crisis spilled over into Monday as top members of leadership and administration officials tried to revive hopes of a bipartisan deal.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate passes bill to give flexibility for small business coronavirus aid program On The Money: GOP turning against new round of ,200 rebate checks | Millions of Americans frustrated by delayed unemployment checks | Senate votes to give coronavirus relief program more flexibility Rand Paul holding up quick passage of anti-lynching bill MORE (R-Ky.), Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin left the Capitol around midnight, still unable to clinch a bipartisan agreement despite three days of around-the-clock negotiations.

White House director of legislative affairs Eric Ueland, asked where the divides are, said there were still a “handful of issues” that remained as sticking points to an agreement.

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“Well, we're hopeful for a quick resolution because as you know the president wants to deliver relief to the American economy and support to the American people,” Ueland added, asked if the issues could be resolved on Monday.

The negotiations, which appeared close to a bipartisan deal on Saturday, quickly unraveled on Sunday as Democrats accused Republicans of walking away from the negotiations and drafting the massive bill without a bipartisan agreement.

Hopes of a quick deal soured further after a meeting between Mnuchin, Schumer, McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report - Protesters' defiance met with calls to listen Top GOP lawmakers invite Blue Dogs to meet with China Task Force Top GOP lawmakers invite Blue Dogs to meet with China Task Force over coronavirus probe MORE (R-Calif.) failed to break the stalemate. Hours later, Democrats blocked the coronavirus stimulus package on a procedural hurdle, sparking visible outrage from McConnell.

“All of a sudden the Democratic leader and the speaker of the House shows up, and we’re back to square one. We’re fiddling here, fiddling with the emotions of the American people, fiddling with the markets, fiddling with our health care,” McConnell said after the failed vote.

They’re under intense pressure to reach a deal after the Dow futures fell 5 percent on Sunday after chances of a deal faded. The United States now has 33,276 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

Now, talks will resume around 9 a.m. on Monday, according to Ueland, as negotiators try to clinch an agreement.

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“9 a.m., and pass the ammunition,” he sang back to reporters as he walked away from them, in an apparent reference to a 1942 song.

But negotiators appeared cautiously optimistic that they would be able to get a deal on Monday.

Mnuchin, leaving the Capitol for the night, told reporters that he thought talks were “very close.”

“The teams are going to work through the night. We’re going to regroup the principals in the morning,” he said. 

Asked if he was frustrated by how talks had played out, he added: “We’re going to work very hard to get this done tomorrow.”

Schumer noted that he had been meeting with Ueland and Mnuchin throughout Sunday. Mnuchin, late Sunday night, told reporters they were “this close” to an agreement, holding up a thumb and a finger approximately an inch apart.

“We are making progress. We’re getting closer and closer and I’m very hopeful … that we can get a bill in the morning,” Schumer told reporters as he left the Capitol around 12:30 a.m. on Monday.

“We’re making progress in the areas of concern,” Schumer said. “I’m more optimistic than I was this morning that we will get something done.”

Democrats have outlined a laundry list of objectionable provisions, arguing that the bill does not expand paid sick leave and actually caps how much employers have to pay, and walks back an agreement Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) had reached on expanding unemployment insurance. 

A source familiar with the GOP bill text also said Republicans are “refusing to add strong worker protections” and have included language requiring companies keep employees “to the extent possible.”

Democrats worry the language is vague enough that corporations could take federal help and still fire workers. Democrats also wanted strong restrictions on corporations who take federal help, but the source said the GOP bill included “very weak” stock buyback restrictions that could be waived by Mnuchin.

The GOP bill, according to the source, also increases a “corporate bailout fund” to $500 billion. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) had pushed to increase the $208 billion proposed in the original GOP plan to ensure distressed industries have access to capital.

If they aren’t able to reach a deal in the morning, McConnell has vowed to hold a vote after the Senate comes in at noon to try for a second time to advance the stimulus package. Democrats blocked the bill — technically a shell that the coronavirus legislation will be swapped into — arguing that they had not made enough progress.

“Maybe there will be some coming together tonight, I hope so,” McConnell told reporters as he left the building around midnight. “If not, we will now be voting at noon.”