Democratic leaders report ‘some progress’ in talks with White House

Democratic leaders announced slow progress with White House negotiators Monday after meeting for nearly two hours in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office on Capitol Hill.

At this rate, no deal is expected before the end of the week, even after millions of unemployed Americans saw the $600-a-week federal boost to state unemployment benefits expire last week.

Pelosi told reporters Monday that negotiators are still trying to map out possible common ground, while Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he thinks an agreement is still possible.

“It was productive. We’re moving down the track, but we still have our differences. We are trying to have a clearer understanding of what the needs are,” Pelosi said after meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

“The needs are that millions of children in our country are food insecure. Millions of people in our country are concerned about being evicted,” she said. “The way we can correct so much of that is for us to defeat the virus. Much of our discussion has to be on how we defeat the virus, and that takes dollars and policy.”

She described the meeting as “good” and said it helped negotiators understand “where we need to go.”

Schumer sounded more optimistic than he did when talks stalled last week. 

“We are really getting an understanding of each side’s position, and we’re making some progress on certain issues,” he said. “There are a lot of issues still outstanding, but I think there is a desire to get something done as soon as we can.”

Asked if a deal might emerge in the next 48 hours, both Democratic leaders remained silent. 

Staffs on both sides plan to work late into Monday evening. 

Pelosi, Schumer, Mnuchin and Meadows spent much of the meeting reviewing the revenue and spending numbers of the joint proposal introduced by the White House and Senate Republicans last week and the HEROES Act passed by the House in May.

“How many children can you feed with this amount of dollars? For how long? How many school can you protect for this amount of dollars so that they can open up?” Schumer said. “Our proposals are obviously a lot more generous than theirs.”

Mnuchin told reporters after the meeting that he would brief Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) before giving an update to the press.

After huddling with McConnell, Mnuchin emerged to say the sides are making “a little bit of progress.”

But a few moments later, Meadows emphasized that the sides are “so far apart right now” that questions about the ultimate size of the package are “not even … valid.” 

The Democratic relief proposal would increase the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s maximum benefit by 15 percent. It would also provide a new 12-month moratorium on evictions for renters who do not pay.

The proposal from the White House and Senate GOP does not include an increase in food stamp benefits or an eviction moratorium, but it does provide $105 billion to help colleges and schools resume classes in the fall. More money in the proposal would go to schools that resume in-person classes.

Republicans say their proposal includes more money for schools than the House-passed HEROES Act does, but Schumer says the Democratic proposal would provide more money for school districts. 

Aside from the expiration of the federal unemployment insurance subsidies, Congress is also brushing up against a looming deadline for small businesses to apply for emergency help under the Paycheck Protection Program. That deadline is Saturday, and some observers had hoped the time crunch would serve to expedite a deal ahead of the weekend.

Yet Mnuchin said that deadline is not playing much of a factor in the timing of the talks.  

“That money we want to repurpose for other issues,” Mnuchin said. “I think most people who have been able to get a loan have already done so. … We’re less focused on that at the moment.” 

Mike Lillis contributed.

Tags Chuck Schumer Coronavirus COVID-19 Eviction moratorium Mark Meadows Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Snap Steven Mnuchin Unemployment

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