Negotiations over a second economic relief bill are continuing in Washington, but Senate Republicans and House Democrats are making little progress toward a deal anytime soon.
“There’s a handful of very big issues that we are still very far apart,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Thursday.
Mnuchin has met with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer all week in hopes of securing an agreement between both sides before the traditional August recess, which was scheduled to begin Friday.
“We’re very far apart. It’s most unfortunate,” Pelosi said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not been engaging directly in talks with the Democrats, leaving it to the White House to come to a deal with them.
“Day after day, they’ve stonewalled the president’s team. Day by day, they’ve tried to invent new euphemisms to create the illusion of progress,” McConnell told reporters.
Republicans, for their part, have become frustrated with Pelosi and Schumer, who have refused to compromise on a relief package as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the nation.
“We believe the patient needs a major operation, while Republicans want to apply just a Band-Aid,” Schumer said on Thursday. “We won’t let them just pass the Band-Aid, go home and leave America bleeding.”
Newsweek reached out to Schumer for further comment but did not hear back in time for publication.
As both sides struggle to find some common ground, here’s where negotiators stand on the key issues.
A second round of stimulus checks is the only major issue where the Democrats and Republicans have come to some agreement.
The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which House Democrats passed in May, calls for a renewal of the $1,200 payments to individuals and dependents. In comparison, the Senate Republicans’ plan offers dependents only $500 under their Help End Abusive Living Situations (HEALS) Act, but it still pays up to $1,200 to eligible adults.
A key component of the GOP plan is liability protection for businesses.
The proposal includes greater tax relief for businesses that hire workers during the pandemic, encouraging employers to keep Americans on their payrolls and further reopen the economy.
Senate Republicans are also proposing more funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, allowing businesses to apply for a second federal loan if they can demonstrate they’ve lost at least half of their gross revenue.
Schumer signaled on Wednesday that he would accept a deal only if it includes an extension of the weekly $600 unemployment benefits, while Senate Republicans proposed a much lower federal payment of $200 per week until September. Under the GOP plan, state agencies would switch to a 70 percent wage replacement after that.
However, three Republican senators demonstrated a willingness to compromise on Wednesday, releasing a new bill that offered a more generous $400 per week and an 80 percent wage replacement.
McConnell has said he would support renewing the $600 payments from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, as long as the president backs it. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said he would support extending the original payment amount for a “short run.”
Republicans have argued that the continued unemployment payments discourage people from returning to work, making it more difficult to fully reopen the economy.
House Democrats have pushed to expand food stamp benefits, which Senate Republicans left out of their proposal.
“Don’t nickel and dime our children,” Pelosi said on Thursday. “Don’t say, ‘We want to give a tax break to a business lunch and not give more money for children to have food stamps.'”
Democrats want to increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits by 15 percent for another year, with an extra $10 billion provided toward food assistance.
However, Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he has raised the issue with McConnell and that he thinks there could be a “positive result” after Republicans look into increasing funding. Roberts is the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
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