Republicans, Democrats Blame Each Other for Stalled COVID-19 Negotiations

August 24, 2020 Updated: August 24, 2020

Stalled negotiations on a fresh package providing relief from COVID-19-fueled problems are the other side’s fault.

That was the message sent Aug. 23, when a top negotiator for each party appeared on television and spoke about why a deal hasn’t been hammered out.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, a point man for the Republicans, criticized Democrats for rushing back to Washington to pass a bill that would give $25 billion to the U.S. Postal Service while not dealing with enhanced unemployment payments or the Payment Protection Program.

“My challenge to the speaker this morning would be this. If we agree on five or six things, let’s go ahead and pass those. Why did you not do it yesterday? But let’s go ahead and pass it,” Meadows said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“I spoke to the president early this morning. He’s willing to sign that, including Postal Service reform and making sure that the money is there to make sure that deliveries of first-class mail are handled quickly, efficiently, and on time.”

Meadows also took to Twitter to write to Pelosi and fellow Democrats.

“If you really want to help Americans, how about passing relief for small businesses and unemployment assistance ALONG with postal funding? We agree on these. There’s NO reason not to deliver relief for Americans right now,” the former congressman wrote.

Pelosi responded on CNN’s “State of the Union,” saying: “It’s about the coronavirus. It’s about the nearly 100 percent of the prescriptions that go through the mail from VA, for our veterans are affected by this and delayed by the actions of the Postal Service.

“So, this is an emergency immediately. And it’s something that should be bipartisan. And it was yesterday. The public is demanding action on this now. I can’t see how the Senate can avoid it, unless they do so to their peril.”

Nearly half the Democratic caucus signed a letter last week urging Pelosi to take action on a narrow bill that would resume $600 weekly payments from the federal government to the unemployed.

Pelosi has shown little interest, though, almost immediately shooting down the strategy.

“I don’t think strategically it’s where we should go right now, because the Republicans would like to pass something like that and say forget about it,” she said on Aug. 20.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Aug. 22, 2020. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

The caucus “is standing together on this,” Pelosi said on Aug. 23, even as she said she welcomed any ideas from members.

“When we go to putting money into people’s pockets, as the president wants to do with that letter, we have to do so, not in a bread and circuses way, I’m going to give you this, but I’m not giving you anything else. This is like ancient Rome. Trump fiddles while Rome burns, while America burns, and Trump gives bread and circuses, without the bread,” she said.

Negotiations between the sides broke down more than two weeks ago, as Democrats pressed for a bill of $2 trillion or more while Republicans continued saying they want narrower, more targeted legislation.

Republicans offered $10 billion in the negotiating room for the Postal Service, Meadows said on “Fox News Sunday,” but Democrats still wanted more. He expressed hope that the Republican-controlled Senate will dramatically alter the bill the House just passed.

“I mean, if we’re going to be serious about this, let’s get serious about it and hopefully what will happen is the Republican senators will take this bill when it comes across. They’ll amend it and actually address many of the things that are hurting America right now in terms of this pandemic response and be able to get it to the president’s desk,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Aug. 22 that Republicans want the Postal Service to remain well-equipped.

“But the Senate will not pass stand-alone legislation for the Postal Service while American families continue to go without the help they need,” he said.

Asked directly why she wouldn’t move forward with a deal on the few issues the sides agree on, Pelosi said that Meadows “didn’t mention the fact that millions of children in our country are food-insecure, that millions of people on the verge of eviction, that he did nothing to address the actual coronavirus, from testing, tracing, treatment, etc., that they are ignoring the needs of state and local government.”

Jack Phillips contributed to this report.

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