White House officials and top Democrats indicated some progress in talks over a massive new coronavirus relief package, including an extension of COVID-19 federal unemployment benefits.
“They made some concessions which we appreciated. We made some concessions which they appreciated,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters. “We are still far away on a lot of the important issues, but we are continuing to go at it.”
But Schumer said “we are still slogging through this step by step by step.”
Mnuchin told reporters afterward that they agreed to set a goal of a deal by the end of the week, according to CNN, although he said that a $3.4 trillion package, advanced by Pelosi, was “ridiculous.”
The $600-per-week in enhanced unemployment benefits expired last week, leaving millions in the lurch as Congress and the White House have been at an impasse on an extension.
The House passed a $3 trillion package in May that extended those benefits through the end of January. Senate Republicans, however, have proposed a $1 trillion bill that would trim the weekly benefit to $200 per week, eventually moving to a calculation to provide 70% of a worker’s earnings.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Trump said that they were “looking at” an executive order to extend the benefits, as well as a suspension of the payroll tax and a ban on evictions, if no agreement is reached. But the possibility of such a move also may be a negotiating tactic to try to force concessions from Democrats.
The president has blasted Democrats for insisting on money to “bail out” state and local governments. Such money, Democrats say, is needed to address widespread budget shortfalls that likely will lead to mass layoffs without federal assistance.
Schumer said that the “fundamental disagreement” is on “the scope and depth of the problem and its solution.”
Pelosi, meanwhile, said that they “agree that we want to have an agreement.” She said that they wanted to ensure that the package includes a “strategic plan for testing, tracing, treatment and isolation.’
The sides plan to meet again on Wednesday. They also plan to meet with Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general, about problems in mail delay related to the COVID-19 pandemic.