Democrats reject short-term deal ahead of unemployment deadline
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said on Thursday night that Democrats rejected a short-term deal as negotiators remain at loggerheads over the next coronavirus relief bill.
“We made a proposal for a short-term deal. And as of now they’ve repeated they don’t want to do that,” Mnuchin told reporters after a nearly two-hour meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Meadows.
Mnuchin declined to say what the administration offered during the meeting, which was the fourth time the group has met in as many days. But Meadows subsequently tweeted that they offered a “temporary extension of needed unemployment assistance.”
“The proposals we made were not received warmly,” Meadows told reporters at the Capitol.
Trump and his chief of staff indicated just hours before the meeting that they were hoping to get Democrats to agree to a smaller deal on just two issues: unemployment benefits and preventing evictions.
“I think probably trying to resolve the enhanced unemployment issue, obviously,” Meadows said, when asked about the goal for the meeting. “And so we want to go ahead and … address the eviction provisions that hopefully will keep people from being evicted from the homes, at least through the end of the year, on both of those things.”
Trump homed in on evictions while speaking from the White House saying that, “we’re asking Democrats to work with us to find a solution that will temporarily stop evictions.”
But any attempt to get a short-term or pared-down bill was all but guaranteed to be rejected by Pelosi and Schumer, who have remained united during the days-long talks.
Democrats have repeatedly said they do not want a short-term deal or a smaller bill.
The stalemate comes as the $600-per-week federal unemployment benefit will expire Friday. With the Senate leaving town until Thursday, and negotiators nowhere close to a deal, they were all but guaranteed to miss the deadline.
Democrats, emerging from the closed-door meeting, accused the White House of trying to make a piecemeal deal that did not meet the crisis sparked by the spread of the coronavirus, which has devastated the economy and killed more than 152,000 Americans, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
“We had a long discussion. And we just don’t think they understand the gravity of the problem. The bottom line is this is the most serious health problem and economic problem we’ve had in a century and 75 years and it takes really, good, strong bold action, and they don’t quite get that,” Schumer told reporters.
Asked if they made progress on anything in the meeting, Schumer noted that they talked about “parameters.” And Pelosi specified that she thought that Meadows and Mnuchin “understand that we have to have a bill.”
“They just don’t realize how big it has to be,” Pelosi added.
The four are expected to talk again Friday, likely by phone, and then meet Saturday.
The meeting came after the Senate blocked dueling coronavirus-relief proposals on Thursday.
Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) tried to pass a bill that would have provided, when state and federal assistance were combined, a match of two-thirds of a person’s previous wage. The federal benefit would have been capped at $500 per week. If a state could not implement the wage match, it would have been a flat $200-per-week federal benefit.
But Schumer blocked the bill. Democrats then tried to pass the House’s roughly $3 trillion bill but it was blocked by Republicans.
Democrats also blocked a one-week extension of the $600 per week benefit.
Meadows told reporters that Trump would have supported extending the current federal benefit at its current level for one week. Under the CARES Act, the original legislation that included the unemployment increase, the benefits are scheduled to formally expire on Friday.
However, because of the calendar and how many states send out benefits, they began to expire July 25. And with the Senate out of town until Monday, even if the four negotiators had reached an agreement there still would have been a lapse of the additional unemployment benefit.
Asked on Thursday night about the offer of a one-week extension, Pelosi asked “what is a one-week extension good for?”
“A one-week extension is good if you have a bill and you’re working it out, the details, the writing of it, legislative counsel, the Congressional Budget Office, Rules Committee,” she said.
“That’s what a one-week extension is about. That is, it’s worthless. It’s worthless unless you are using it for this purpose,” she added.