President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested a short-term extension to the expanded $600-per-week unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions, which were not provisions in the Senate GOP relief bill.
The two White House officials acknowledged that the Republicans and Democrats are far apart on a stimulus deal, while noting that the GOP is divided on its own HEALS Act. It means that negotiations on the relief package could be lengthy.
“We ought to work on the evictions so that people don’t get evicted,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday morning. “You work on the payments for the people, and the rest of it we’re so far apart we don’t care. We really don’t care.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin added: “As of now, we’re very far apart.”
Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), already rejected a temporary deal, saying they don’t want to pass the measures in a piecemeal manner.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said he does not believe that Republicans and Democrats can reach consensus by the end of the week. It means that the federal unemployment benefits will most likely expire on Friday, July 31.
“I don’t see any way to get a comprehensive deal by the end of this month and it’s why the president is looking to extend unemployment benefits in some fashion as well as eviction protection,” Meadows told Politico. “Because we are way too far apart to reach a deal by the end of the month.”
However, some GOP senators on Wednesday indicated they would support a smaller relief deal.
“That may need to happen,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in an interview with The Hill. “I mean, ultimately … we’re not going to have a universal agreement in place by Friday, so there may be some things that have to be done that way.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he would be fine with a smaller package that would let negotiations continue on controversial measures.
“I’m OK with that. We got to fix the employment package because you’re paying people 150 percent more than they were making and that skews the economy. But yeah, I don’t mind doing some interim package,” he told the same news outlet.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the GOP leadership, noted that “I’m sure there are smaller combinations we would like, and smaller combinations we wouldn’t like. It depends on what smaller means.”
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) both attempted to focus on divisions among GOP members as a reason for why talks are stalling.
“Yesterday, after putting the Senate on ‘pause’ for three months, and after months of blocking nearly every Democratic attempt to pass legislation related to coronavirus, Senate Republicans finally revealed their long-overdue proposal for the next phase of COVID relief,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
Pelosi on Wednesday said the Democrats have “passed our bill,” referring to the HEROES Act. “The appropriate thing for the Senate to do is to pass a bill and then we can negotiate with them, but they can’t even get a bill passed on their side, even if it just took 51 votes, they’re in disarray,” she said, adding that it will be “very hard for them to get 51 votes for the proposal that they’ve put forward.”