A last-ditch effort to revive Capitol Hill talks on coronavirus relief money collapsed at week’s end.
President Donald Trump said Friday night he was likely to issue more limited executive orders related to the pandemic, perhaps in the next day or so, if he can’t reach a broad agreement with Congress.
The day’s negotiations ended up being “a disappointing meeting,” declared top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, saying the White House had rejected an offer by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to curb Democratic demands by about $1 trillion.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “Unfortunately we did not make any progress today.”
Republicans contended Pelosi was relying on budget maneuvers to curb costs and overplaying her hand.
The impasse likely means the end of a $600-per-week pandemic jobless bonus.
Both the House and Senate have left Washington, with members sent home with instructions to be ready to return for a vote on an agreement. With no deal in sight, their absence raises the possibility of a prolonged stalemate.
Trump said he may issue executive orders on home evictions, student loan debt and allowing states to repurpose relief funding into their unemployment insurance programs.
He also said he’ll likely issue an executive order to defer collection of Social Security payroll taxes.
“If Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need,” Trump said.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said, “This is not a perfect answer — we’ll be the first ones to say that — but it is all that we can do, and all the president can do within the confines of his executive power.”
Friday’s Capitol Hill session followed a combative meeting on Thursday evening that cast real doubt on the ability of the Trump administration and Democrats to come together on a fifth coronavirus response bill.
Pelosi declared the talks all but dead until Meadows and Mnuchin give ground.
“I’ve told them, ‘Come back when you are ready to give us a higher number,’” she said.
In a news conference on Friday, Pelosi said she offered a major concession to Republicans.
“We’ll go down $1 trillion, you go up $1 trillion,” Pelosi said. The figures are approximate, but a Pelosi spokesman said the speaker is seeking a “top line” of perhaps $2.4 trillion.
Republicans say their starting offer was about $1 trillion but have offered some concessions on jobless benefits and aid to states, among others, that have brought the White House offer higher.
Mnuchin said renewal of a $600 per week jobless boost and huge demands by Democrats for aid to state and local governments are the key areas where the two sides are stuck.
“There’s a lot of areas of compromise,” he said after Friday’s meeting.
“I think if we can reach an agreement on state and local and unemployment, we will reach an overall deal. And if we can’t, we can’t.”
Democrats have offered to reduce their almost $1 trillion demand for state and local governments considerably, but some of Pelosi’s proposed cost savings would accrue chiefly because she would shorten the timeframe for benefits like food stamps.
On Friday, Schumer pointed to the new July jobs report to try to bolster the Democrat proposal. The report showed that the U.S. added 1.8 million jobs last month, a much lower increase than in May and June.
“It’s clear the economy is losing steam,” Schumer said. “That means we need big, bold investments in America to help average folks.”
Senate Republicans have been split, with roughly half opposed to another rescue bill at all.
Four prior coronavirus response bills totaling almost $3 trillion have been approved on bipartisan votes, but conservatives have recoiled at the prospect of another Pelosi-brokered agreement with a whopping cost.
McConnell has kept his distance from the negotiations while coordinating with Mnuchin and Meadows.
In addition to restoring the lapsed $600-per-week jobless benefit, Pelosi and Schumer have staked out a firm position to extend child care assistance and reiterated their insistence on additional funding for food stamps and assistance to renters and homeowners facing eviction or foreclosure.
“This virus is like a freight train coming so fast and they are responding like a convoy going as slow as the slowest ship. It just doesn’t work,” Pelosi said Friday.
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