Executive Action Possible as Negotiations Continue on Next Virus Relief Bill

August 4, 2020 Updated: August 4, 2020

President Donald Trump could take executive action on virus relief amid little progress on negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, administration officials said.

Before meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters that Trump may take action if negotiations don’t come to fruition soon. Trump said in a separate interview that he’s prepared to provide another round of stimulus payments through executive action.

After the meeting, Pelosi and Schumer told reporters that both sides made concessions.

“We’re still far away on a lot of the important issues, but we’re still continuing to go at it,” Schumer said. “We’re slogging through, step by step by step. And we’re making progress.”

Pelosi added, “We agree we want to have an agreement.”

Earlier in the day, Meadows and Mnuchin spoke with Republican senators during a luncheon.

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President Donald Trump holds up a walking stick given to him by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) after he signed the Great American Outdoors Act at the White House in Washington on Aug. 4, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin heads to a meeting on the CCP virus relief bill at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Aug. 4, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

The conversation was mostly a debrief on what Democratic leaders had discussed with White House negotiators in the last meeting, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters.

The pattern of negotiations sees Meadows and Mnuchin, along with staff members, shuttle between Republicans and Democrats to discuss varying proposals.

“I think they have said that there’s not a whole lot of movement yet, but a feeling that seems to have been expressed that we’d like to get an outcome. I certainly hope we can. The coronavirus is certainly not over. It’s still an enormous problem,” McConnell said.

Democrats want the Republican-controlled Senate to pass the HEROES Act, which the Democrat-controlled House passed months ago.

Republican leaders stressed that they’re opposed to the $3.4 trillion act.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks after attending the Senate Republican luncheon at the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington on Aug. 4, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
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White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows walks to the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Aug. 4, 2020. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“I think it’s pretty clear, should be clear to the Democrats, we are not going to pass the HEROES Act. It is not a serious piece of legislation. But we think there is common ground that we can find,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the number two GOP senator, said.

Republican senators have put forth a number of narrow proposals, including a one-week extension of the existing unemployment bonus, which Democrats have shot down.

The GOP is grappling with internal division. Some 15 to 20 senators will likely not vote for another virus relief bill, undercutting the party’s 53-47 majority in the upper congressional chamber.

“What we are hoping for here is a bipartisan proposal, negotiated by the president of the United States and his team, who can sign a bill into law, and the Democratic majority in the House, that can appeal to a significant percentage of Republicans in the House and Senate. That’s where we are,” McConnell said.

In a separate briefing at the Capitol, Schumer described the Republican caucus as divided, accusing them of being unable to put forth a proposal that meets the enormity of the COVID-19 crisis.

“We believe, the American people believe, that this is the greatest crisis affecting America in 75 years economically and 100 years healthwise. We believe it needs a big, bold response. A skinny bill that just touches on one or two of the many problems, a bill that says if we have a million starved kids that aren’t getting fed, we should compromise and feed half of them, that doesn’t work,” he told reporters.

If the money isn’t spent now, the crisis will get worse and cost even more in the future, Democrats argue.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) pointed to the increase in COVID-19 cases from three million to four million in the span of about two weeks in arguing “we are at a moment when a bandaid is totally insufficient to treat the wound.”

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