White House not optimistic on near-term stimulus deal

Trump administration officials sounded a pessimistic note Sunday on the chances of a coronavirus relief deal with congressional Democrats in the near future.

White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsAt least five Trump administration staffers have spoken with Jan 6 committee: CNN Democrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled Report: Rally organizers say GOP lawmakers worked on Jan. 6 protests MORE expressed doubt there would be “a solution in the very near term” on any package.

"Yesterday was a step in the right direction," Meadows said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "I'm not optimistic there will be a solution in the very near term."

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“If you have unemployed people that have lost their enhanced unemployment, they need to call their Democrat senators and House members because they’re the ones standing in the way,” he told guest host John Dickerson.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinMajor Russian hacking group linked to ransomware attack on Sinclair: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Former Treasury secretaries tried to resolve debt limit impasse in talks with McConnell, Yellen: report MORE, meanwhile, told ABC's "This Week" that he opposes continuing the temporary $600-per-week unemployment benefits.

"Unemployment is supposed to be wage replacement, so it should be tied to some percentage of wages," he said. "The fact that we had a flat number was only an issue of an emergency where we had 30-year-old computer systems."

Mnuchin said that "on the concept, we absolutely agree on enhanced unemployment" but suggested he believed it was preventing a broader economic recovery.

"In certain cases where we're paying people more to stay home than to work, that's created issues in the entire economy," he said.

The White House has called on congressional Democrats to agree to a short-term extension of the unemployment payments, which expired Aug. 1., while they negotiate a long-term package.

On the Democratic side, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) blasted Republicans for proposing to reduce the weekly unemployment benefits while granting businesses 100 percent tax deductions for business lunches.

“What kind of a priority is that?” Clyburn said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “This is people who need a tax deduction for their lunch, and we cannot give the $600 supplement to unemployed people, many of them trying to take care of their children, trying to provide child care. There’s something out of whack here.”

When CNN’s Dana BashDana BashThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - White House tackles how to vaccinate children ages 5+ Manchin lays down demands for child tax credit: report Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 MORE noted that Democrats had blocked a weeklong extension of the $600 benefits proposed by Republicans, Clyburn called the proposal “playing games.”

“They’re the ones that are playing games with us,” he said. “We’re not trying to jerk the American people around.”

Meanwhile, Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said the pandemic was not under control in the U.S. because “people are on the move.”

“Across America right now, people are on the move,” she said on “State of the Union” on Sunday. “And so all of our discussions about social distancing and decreasing gatherings to under 10 — as I traveled around the country, I saw all of America moving.”

“What we’re seeing today is different from March and April,” she added. “It is extraordinarily widespread. It’s into the rural as equal urban areas. And to everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus.”

Officials also addressed the debate over fully reopening schools in the fall, with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight On The Money — Senate Democrats lay out their tax plans Democrats haggle as deal comes into focus Dem hopes for infrastructure vote hit brick wall MORE (D-Calif.) saying it was not feasible until community spread was under control.

"When you ... reduce the spread, you can open up the schools, when you reduce the rate of infection in a community," Pelosi said on "State of the Union.' "But until you do that, you have to be very careful."

Clyburn, a former public school teacher, offered a similar assessment, saying, “Absolutely not, not until we have a national plan within the school districts. We can’t have children that are going to school when we have not laid out a plan for there to be social distancing, for everyone to be required to wear a mask.”