Dems, White House say deal could be near

Dems, White House say deal could be near

Christal Hayes
USA TODAYPublished 8:41 PM EDT Aug 4, 2020WASHINGTON – After more than a week of discussions, top Democrats and negotiators from the White House say a deal on a coronavirus stimulus package could be reached by the end of the week and approved as early as the following week, potentially good news for millions of unemployed Americans whose boosted unemployment benefits have expired. The movement followed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., meeting for another day with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Both sides said they agreed to a series of concessions but also acknowledged they still had a number of differences that they were attempting to work through, though neither would lay out specific policy items.”They made some concessions, which we appreciated. We made some concessions, which they appreciated. We’re still far away on a lot of the important issues,” Schumer told reporters after the meeting. “The fundamental disagreement is the scope and depth of the problem and its solution.”Mnuchin and Meadows said they had made new offers to Democrats on extending protections for renters facing evictions and enhanced unemployment benefits, a crucial and divisive item after a $600 weekly benefit that has helped millions of unemployed workers expired on Friday – leaving many Americans in financial limbo as Congress and the administration continue to slowly hash out the differences in their trillion-dollar proposals. More: Trump weighs executive action as negotiations progress on next coronavirus stimulus packageWhat both sides want: $1,200 checks? Money for schools? Breaking down what Republicans and Democrats want in the coronavirus stimulus plan”Even though there remains a number of unresolved issues, I would characterize the conversations as productive and a step in the right direction,” Meadows said after the meeting. “Probably the most productive meeting we’ve had.” Mnuchin added that while both sides still differ on a number of policy items, “we did try to agree to set a timeline that we’re going to try to reach an overall agreement, if we can get one, by the end of this week, so that the legislation could be then passed next week.”Pelosi echoed the point during a PBS interview Tuesday, saying the plan was to reach an agreement by the end of the week, but noted the vast differences in the priorities between Democrats and Republicans. “We have to have an agreement, and we will have an agreement,” she said. Negotiations over the next package are expected to continue Wednesday on Capitol Hill. President Donald Trump has said he is weighing taking executive action if a deal can’t be brokered with Congress, telling reporters he might act unilaterally on the moratorium on housing evictions that recently expired and a payroll tax cut, something he has repeatedly demanded be part of various coronavirus legislation but has been met with blunt rejection from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.It is not clear whether Trump has the power to make such moves, and it would likely be challenged legally. ‘Insulin or groceries’: How reduced unemployment affects struggling Americans from California to MississippiRepublicans and Democrats remain far apart on many issues at the heart of the next package, one of the biggest being the $600 boost to unemployment, which Democrats want to extend until at least January and Republicans have argued is too high and disincentivizes Americans from going back to work. The bonus bolsters state benefits that average nationally about $370 a week.There are also differences on a host of items, from funds for state and local governments and the post office, areas important to Democrats, and liability insurance for businesses, something Republicans have said is a requirement in any next bill. The Senate this week is set to possibly take action on the expired boosted unemployment benefit but it’s unclear whether any measure will pass as Democrats have dug in their heels against a piecemeal approach to passing additional funds to counter the pandemic. Senate Republicans last week attempted to pass a one-week extension on the $600 benefit but Democrats blocked the proposal, arguing it would still lead to lapses in funds getting to families and stressed for Republicans to work with them on a long-term solution. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has not been part of the negotiations over the next package, acknowledged Tuesday the divide within his own conference over the next bill, which has added an additional hurdle in finding a compromise to quickly getting funds to U.S. families. “If you’re looking for a total consensus among Republican senators, you’re not going to find it. So, we do have divisions about what to do,” he said during a weekly news conference, adding that this round of talks is unlike the others due to its proximity to the election. “It’s not going to produce a Kumbaya moment like we had in March or April where everybody voted aye.”


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