McConnell: Time to restart coronavirus talks
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is calling for the Trump administration and congressional Democrats to restart negotiations on a fifth coronavirus deal after talks collapsed late last week.
McConnell, during an interview with Fox News, said it was “time for everybody to get back to the table,” though the GOP leader gave no indication that he would reach out to Democratic leaders himself.
“The stalemate needs to be ended. It doesn’t make any difference who says let’s get together again, but we ought to get together again,” McConnell said, adding things were currently at an “impasse.”
“There hasn’t been a meeting of any consequences between the two parties since last Friday. That’s too long, and it’s time to sit down and get a deal done,” he added.
Negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows collapsed on Friday after nearly two weeks of daily talks resulted in little progress.
Though Meadows and Mnuchin briefed McConnell regularly about the closed-door negotiations, the GOP leader was not in the room for the days of talks.
The congressional Democrats and the White House negotiators haven’t spoken since Friday, and appear to be putting the onus on each other to restart talks. Pelosi told reporters on Tuesday that she had not heard from Mnuchin or Meadows.
“Our differences are vast,” she said.
Asked if we should expect any updates this week, Pelosi added: “I hope so, we’ll see.”
Mnuchin and Meadows briefed Senate Republicans on Tuesday morning for nearly an hour. But they appeared to give GOP senators no reason to think there would be a quick resumption of the negotiations.
Asked if he had gotten an update from the GOP negotiating team, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said they were “pessimistic about getting back to negotiations.”
Instead the two parties have spent the past two days trading blame over the impasse.
“I made it clear that the reasons talks have stalled was that the White House had basically declared, ‘my way of the highway.’ They were unwilling to meet us in the middle. They said that in the room,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.
He added that the stalemate was “not a both sides to blame situation.”
“Democrats are willing to compromise. Republicans are being intransigent and will not move from their position,” Schumer said.
As part of last week’s talks, Schumer and Pelosi offered to take a trillion dollars off their $3.4 trillion top-line figure if the White House agreed to add $1 trillion to their package. That would have put them in the range of a final agreement between $2 trillion and $2.4 trillion.
But Mnuchin called the figure a “non-starter.”
McConnell, on Tuesday, called for Democrats to drop their demand for nearly $1 trillion in new aid for state and local governments, which has emerged as a significant sticking point to restarting the talks. Democrats are asking for $915 billion while Republicans have offered $150 billion.
“Take that off the table and let’s get this assistance directly to the people who need it,” McConnell said.