Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Democrat and Republican lawmakers are attempting to create a deal for a COVID-19 package by the end of the week, coming just days after expanded unemployment benefits expired, while a congressional recess for August is looming.
“We did try to agree to set a timeline,” he said on Aug. 4, according to Fox News. “We’re going to try to reach an overall agreement, if we can get one, by the end of this week.”
It came after Mnuchin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows spent several days attempting to hash out the details and come to a consensus on several key issues, including unemployment insurance benefits, aid to state and local governments, stimulus payments, liability protections, and more.
“They made some concessions, which we appreciated,” Schumer said after the meeting. “We made some concessions, which they appreciated.”
It isn’t clear what those concessions might be.
This week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested that the $600 unemployment benefits may be continued if President Donald Trump is on board.
“Wherever this thing settles between the president of the United States and his team, who has to sign it into law, and the Democrat, not insignificant minority in the Senate and majority in the House, is something I’m prepared to support,” McConnell told reporters on Aug. 4. “Even if I have some problems with certain parts of it.”
A week before that, McConnell and some other Republican lawmakers proposed $200-per-week unemployment payments before implementing a program that would pay 70 percent of unemployment beneficiaries’ wages.
“We know this is going to be a negotiated settlement,” McConnell said, noting that some Republicans will not support this stimulus legislation. “It’s not going to produce a kumbaya moment like we had back in March and April, where everybody voted ‘aye.’ But the American people, in the end, need help.”
Pelosi told reporters in a separate interview that $600-per-week is their requirement, saying that the number could drop if unemployment numbers drop.
“We’re not saying to the American people, more people are infected, more people are dying, more people are uninsured, more children are hunger-insecure, or food-insecure, and guess what? We’re going to cut your benefit,” Pelosi told PBS.
Trump, meanwhile, has said that he might have to issue an executive order if Republicans and Democrats can’t come to an agreement in the near future.
“I have a lot of powers with respect to executive orders, and we’re looking at that very seriously right now,” he told reporters at a White House briefing this week. “I’ll do it myself if I have to.”