The top Democrats in Congress are not close to a deal with the White House to pump more money into the U.S. economy to ease the coronavirus’ heavy toll, both sides said on Saturday, after an essential lifeline for millions of unemployed Americans expired.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for three hours at the Capitol on Saturday morning.
But they failed to make a deal and will now meet again on Monday, Schumer said – but their staff will meet tomorrow.
The meeting came after $600 unemployment boosts brought in under a previous relief package expired on Friday night.
The negotiations are also holding up direct payments to Americans of up to $1,200.
On Friday, President Donald Trump blamed the Dems for the impasse, writing on Twitter: ‘The Democrats are holding back the $1,200 to $3,400 (family of four) checks that were ready to be sent out!’
But Democrats have hit back, saying the Republican plan doesn’t go far enough to help Americans.
After Saturday’s meeting, Schumer said: ‘This was the longest meeting we had and it was more productive than the other meetings. There are many issues that are still very much outstanding where we’re apart.
‘We’re not close yet, but it was productive discussion. Now each side knows where we’re at and we are going to work very hard to reach an agreement that meets the needs of the moment.
‘Just saying, “We’ll do half way” doesn’t work when people need homes and need jobs and need housing and need help.’
‘We’re still a long ways apart and I don’t want to suggest a deal is imminent because it is not,’ Mnuchin told reporters, adding ‘there are still substantial differences but we did make good progress.’
Pelosi said: ‘What we are doing is not only trying to arrest the virus but to invest in the economy as we help America’s working families. So, today was productive in terms of moving us forward.
‘We have to get through this virus so that we can open our economy, safely open our schools and to do so in a way that does not give a cut in benefits to America’s workers.’
Republican Mnuchin said: ‘We’re still a long ways apart and I don’t want to suggest a deal is imminent because it is not. There are still substantial differences but we did make good progress.’
Congress for the past several months has been unable to reach an accord for a next round of coronavirus relief, in a pandemic that has killed more than 150,000 Americans and brought on the sharpest economic collapse since the Great Depression.
In a meeting on Thursday night between top White House officials and congressional Democratic leaders, negotiations focused on an extension of the $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits, which Americans who lost jobs because of the health crisis have been receiving in addition to state jobless payments.