While Pelosi, Schumer, Meadows and Mnuchin have met three days in a row, there’s little sign of progress on an agreement to deliver much-needed relief to millions of out-of-work Americans. They plan to meet again on Thursday.
And Pelosi had already rejected a “piecemeal” approach, arguing that Republicans should have started negotiations weeks ago.
Democrats put forward their own bill in May to halt evictions and keep the additional $ 600 in benefits through the end of the year. But Republicans, who released their own proposal Monday, argue that the extra unemployment aid disincentivizes work. Instead, the Senate GOP is pushing to reduce that extra $ 600 to a temporary, flat payment of $ 200 for 60 days to allow state systems to then offer a 70 percent wage replacement.
Democrats and Republicans are in such conflict on the next coronavirus aid package that both Mnuchin and Meadows have suggested a so-called skinny deal, which would tackle narrower issues one at time.
On Wednesday, the pair met with Republican chairs to solicit ideas from them as well.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday blamed Pelosi on the Senate floor for refusing to negotiate on the unemployment aid, suggesting the House “will not let a package go forward unless we continue paying people more not to work.”
“When it’s time to actually make a law, Democrats would rather keep political issues alive than find a bipartisan way to resolve them,” the Kentucky Republican said.
Schumer shot back at McConnell, saying “the fact that Leader McConnell would even consider the idea that a political party might deny support for the American people in order to help win an election says more about the Republican leader than anybody else.”
One of the biggest issues in the negotiations is the price tag. Democrats are pushing for the $ 3 trillion Heroes Act which passed the House in May. Senate Republicans skittish about rising deficits, meanwhile, want to keep the package at close to $ 1 trillion. Another sticking point is state and local aid. Democrats are pushing for close to $ 1 trillion in state and local money, which Republicans oppose. Republicans instead are pushing for more state flexibility on the use of the funds.
Republicans are highlighting a new report from the Treasury Department Inspector General that showed that about three quarters of the money granted hasn’t been distributed to local and municipal governments. Instead, the data and media reports from different states suggest governors are keeping tight control over the bulk of the funds.
McConnell is also making clear that any bill that passes the Senate will need to include liability protection for companies worried about being sued over coronavirus infections, something Democrats are resisting.
House Democrats have ripped the Senate GOP’s proposal, which they say is not a serious enough effort to even begin negotiations across the two parties.
“When we have a reasonable bill put forth by Senate Republicans for us to discuss, let’s have a discussion about our differences,” House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries said Wednesday, declining to comment on GOP demands like liability changes.
“Half the Senate Republicans don’t even seem to support the Senate Republican coronavirus bill,” Jeffries said. “It’s an inhumane, cruel, cold-hearted response.”
John Bresnahan and Max Cohen contributed to this report.