Negotiations are continuing this afternoon on a new COVID-19 relief package, but House leaders and senior Trump administration officials say they are not close to a deal as the end of the week approaches.
Talks are primarily between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) choosing to stay largely out of the fray. All this week, the two sides have met to try to end the stalemate but they remain far apart on the size and scope of the package. The House is scheduled to be out next week, though legislators have been told they may be called back on 24 hours’ notice.
“There are no top-line numbers that have been agreed to,” Meadows told reporters yesterday. “We continue to be trillions of dollars apart.”
McConnell and top Senate Republicans introduced the $1 trillion HEALS Act last week, while House Democrats prefer the $3.5 trillion HEROES Act they passed more than two months ago. McConnell is experiencing dissent in his own party over provisions in the bill and over whether to spend more money at all after committing more than $3 trillion already this year to prop up the beleaguered economy.
“I knew we weren’t going to be having a kumbaya moment in which everybody got together and said, ‘Oh, let’s do it again,’” McConnell told POLITICO yesterday. “So I thought this was the smartest way to handle it. I think at some point here we’ll get an agreement. Hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Meadows said this week that if a deal isn’t reached by Friday, President Trump is prepared to use executive action to impose a moratorium on evictions, extend unemployment benefits and suspend the payroll tax, although it’s unclear if he has the legal authority to take all of these actions unilaterally. Pressure for a deal is mounting as more than 30 million unemployed workers are without enhanced unemployment benefits that expired last week. A moratorium on evictions also recently expired.