Stimulus relief negotiators hope for deal this week

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer speak to the press in Statuary Hall following a meeting with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI

Aug. 5 (UPI) — Though congressional Democrats and White House negotiators say they’re still far apart on reaching a deal on a new coronavirus relief package, they hope to come to an agreement by the end of the week.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York met Tuesday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in another round of talks to hammer out the details.

Schumer told reporters after the meeting that they made progress on negotiations.

“We really went down issue by issue, slogging through them,” he said. “They made some concessions, which we appreciated. We made some concessions, which they appreciated. We’re still far away on a lot of the important issues, but we’re continuing to go at it.”

Pelosi said she’s hoping to have a final stimulus deal agreed upon this week.

Mnuchin agreed.

“We’re not at the point of being close to a deal, but we did try to agree to set a timeline,” he said after the meeting. “We’re going to try to reach an overall agreement, if we can get one, by the end of this week — so that legislation could then pass next week.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, said he’ll support whatever deal Mnuchin and Meadows agree to with Democrats.

“Wherever this thing settles between the president of the United States and his team, that have 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 event if I have some problems with certain parts of it,” he said after Tuesday’s Senate Republican lunch.

President Donald Trump later in the afternoon reiterated his threat that he’d sign an executive order to provide eviction protections and extra unemployment benefits if there was no agreement by the end of the week.

“We are looking at it,” he said during a news conference. “We’re also looking at various other things I am allowed to do under the system.”

One of the main focuses of the legislation is an enhanced federal unemployment benefit that had paid out-of-work Americans an extra $600 each week, which was part of the first relief package, the CARES Act, in March.

The federal benefit ran out last week but officially expired Friday.

Senate Republicans introduced their $1 trillion coronavirus relief package last week, including direct stimulus payments and a cut to unemployment benefits. It also includes an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program and funding to reopen schools.

One of the most contentious provisions would reduce weekly federal unemployment payments from $600 to $200, while states would adopt a system to provide about 70% of wage replacement for workers who have been laid off.

Democrats have opposed the package, instead backing a $3 trillion proposal passed by the House in May.


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