Top Democrats are doubling down on their demand for expanded unemployment benefits to continue as part of a COVID-19 package, warning that lowering the payments would threaten overall U.S. economic recovery efforts.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), one of her party’s lead negotiators on the deal, noted that there has been progress but “we’re not there yet.” She said that there will be no bill for a short-term extension of the expanded benefits.
“We’re not having short-term extensions,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol.
“We just don’t know how long the tunnel is. But we have to move quickly, more quickly, because the light at that end of the tunnel may be the freight train of the virus coming at us if we do not act to contain it,” she said in an interview earlier in the day.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that the Senate will try to formally stay in session ahead of an August recess. The House of Representatives already left Washington last week.
“I’ve told Republican Senators they will have 24-hour notice before a vote, but the Senate will be convening on Monday, and I will be right here in Washington,” McConnell told reporters. “The House has already skipped town, but the Senate won’t adjourn for August unless and until the Democrats demonstrate they will never let an agreement materialize.”
On Wednesday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Republicans and Democrats were still “trillions of dollars apart” on making a deal. Meadows along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been negotiating on behalf of the White House with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“I think it’s fair to say that Republicans have made far more concessions than Democrats,” Meadows told reporters, although that was rebuked by Pelosi and Schumer Thursday.
“They want to pinch pennies. They’d like to get away with passing the skinniest most minimal bill possible and go home and wash their hands of it,” said Schumer. He added, “We can’t do that because it will … leave Americans hurting and not get us out of the crisis, which is our job.”
President Donald Trump indicated that he may act unilaterally on issuing an executive order to extend the unemployment benefits, suspend payroll taxes, and student loan payments. He also said that an order could be issued to extend a moratorium on evictions that expired late last month.
“Upon departing the Oval Office for Ohio, I’ve notified my staff to continue working on an Executive Order with respect to Payroll Tax Cut, Eviction Protections, Unemployment Extensions, and Student Loan Repayment Options,” Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday.