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Lawmakers reported progress on a huge coronavirus relief bill Saturday, as political pressure mounts to restore an expired $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit and send funding to help schools reopen.

“This was the longest meeting we’ve had and it was more productive than the other meetings,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.

Y., who was part of the rare weekend session. “We’re not close yet, but it was a productive discussion — now each side knows where they’re at.”

Schumer spoke alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., after meeting for three hours with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

The Democratic leaders are eager for an expansive agreement, as are President Donald Trump and top Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. But perhaps one half of Senate Republicans, mostly conservatives and those not facing difficult races this fall, are likely to oppose any deal.

Prior talks had yielded little progress and Saturday’s cautious optimism was a break from gloomy private assessments among GOP negotiators. The administration is willing to extend the newly expired $600 jobless benefit, at least in the short term, but is balking at other Democratic demands like aid for state and local governments, food stamp increases, and assistance to renters and homeowners.

Pelosi mentioned food aid and funding for voting by mail after the negotiating session was over. She and Schumer appeared more upbeat than they have after earlier meetings.

“We have to get rid of 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 American workers,” Pelosi said.

Mnuchin said restoring the $600 supplemental jobless benefit is critically important to Trump.

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“We’re still a long ways apart and I don’t want to suggest that a deal is imminent because it is not,” Meadows said afterward. “There are still substantial differences, but we did make good progress.”

The additional jobless benefit officially lapsed on Friday, and Democrats have made clear that they will not extend it without securing other relief priorities. Whatever unemployment aid negotiators agree on will be made retroactive — but antiquated state systems are likely to take weeks to restore the benefits.

Republicans in the Senate had been fighting to trim back the $600 benefit, saying it must be slashed so that people don’t make more in unemployment than they would if they returned to work. But their resolve weakened as the benefit expired, and Trump abruptly undercut their position by signaling he wants to keep the full $600 for now.

On Friday, Trump used Twitter to explicitly endorse extending the $600 payment and to criticize Schumer.

Washington’s top power players agree that Congress must pass further relief in the coming days and weeks. At stake beyond the $600 per week jobless benefit is a fresh $1,200 direct payment to most Americans, and hundreds of billions of dollars in other aid to states, businesses and the poor, among other elements.

Democrats hold a strong negotiating hand — exploiting GOP divisions — and they are expected to deliver a necessary trove of votes.

The COVID package will be the fifth legislative response to the pandemic and could well be the last one before the November election. The only other must-pass legislation on the agenda is a stopgap spending measure that should advance in September.

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Since May, Republicans controlling the Senate had kept the relief negotiations on “pause” in a strategy aimed at reducing its price tag. But as the pandemic surged back over the summer — and as fractures inside the GOP have eroded the party’s negotiating position — Republicans displayed some greater flexibility.

Even with signs of progress in the talks, the list of items to negotiate remains daunting.

McConnell’s must-have item is a liability shield from lawsuits for businesses, schools, and charities that reopen as the pandemic goes on. The GOP’s business allies are strong backers but the nation’s trial lawyers retain considerable clout in opposition. A compromise is probably a challenging but necessary part of a final deal.

Among the priorities for Democrats is a boost in food stamp benefits. Republicans added $20 billion for agribusinesses but no increase for food stamp benefits in their $1 trillion proposal. Meadows played a role in killing an increase in food aid during talks on the $2 trillion relief bill in March, but Pelosi appears determined. The food stamp increases, many economists say, provide an immediate injection of demand into the economy in addition to combating growing poverty.

Food aid was the first item Pelosi mentioned in a letter to fellow Democrats apprising them of the progress.

“This is a very different kind of negotiation, because of what is at stake. Millions of children are food insecure, millions of families are at risk of eviction, and for the nineteenth straight week, over 1 million Americans applied for unemployment insurance,” Pelosi said.

Filed under Coronavirus ,  donald trump ,  lawmakers ,  mitch mcconnell ,  nancy pelosi ,  unemployment ,  8/1/20

News Source: New York Post

Tags: donald trump lawmakers mitch mcconnell nancy pelosi unemployment jobless benefit

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Trump eyes weekend executive order if coronavirus relief talks stall

President TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE said Thursday that he would likely move forward with an executive order on coronavirus relief later this week if the White House and Congress do not make progress in their negotiations. 

Trump told reporters the executive order would come "probably tomorrow afternoon" or the following morning. He made the remarks at Joint Base Andrews before departing for a trip to Ohio for official and campaign business.

Trump acknowledged that a legislative deal was still possible but the two sides but the two sides remain far apart on both the top line dollar amount and specific provisions of the legislation. 

White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsNegotiators remain far apart on coronavirus deal as deadline looms Trump dismisses legal questions on GOP nomination speech at White House Overnight Defense: Esper says 'most believe' Beirut explosion was accident, contradicting Trump | Trump later says 'nobody knows yet' what happened in Lebanon | 61-year-old reservist ID'd as fourth military COVID-19 death MORE, Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinNegotiators remain far apart on coronavirus deal as deadline looms On The Money: White House warns there's likely no deal with no agreement by Friday | More generous unemployment benefits lead to better jobs: study | 167K workers added to private payrolls in July Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal MORE, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerGroup of GOP senators back more money for airlines to pay workers GOP super PAC launching August ad blitz Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Negotiators remain far apart on coronavirus deal as deadline looms Top federal official says more details coming on foreign election interference MORE (D-Calif.) are again set to on Capitol Hill Thursday evening to continue negotiations. 

Both sides say that they want to reach an agreement on key issues by Friday but Meadows emerged from negotiations on Wednesday saying negotiators were "trillions of dollars apart in terms of what Democrats and Republicans hopefully will ultimately compromise on." 

Meadows and Mnuchin have signaled the president would take unilateral action if a compromise is not reached.

Trump insisted this week that he has the authority to issue executive orders to reinstate the expanded unemployment insurance benefit, reinstate a federal moratorium on evictions and suspend the payroll tax.

“Upon departing the Oval Office for Ohio, I’ve notified my staff to continue working on an Executive Order with respect to Payroll Tax Cut, Eviction Protections, Unemployment Extensions, and Student Loan Repayment Options,” Trump tweeted earlier Thursday before leaving for Ohio.

Upon departing the Oval Office for Ohio, I’ve notified my staff to continue working on an Executive Order with respect to Payroll Tax Cut, Eviction Protections, Unemployment Extensions, and Student Loan Repayment Options.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2020

 

It is unclear whether Trump has the legal authority to take the actions he has previewed.

The $600 enhanced unemployment insurance benefit for laid-off workers enacted in previous coronavirus relief legislation officially expired midnight Friday. The same bill also placed a moratorium on evictions for renters participating in federal housing assistance programs and those who live in places with federally-backed mortgages, which expired about two weeks ago.

Trump has pushed for a payroll tax cut to be included in the next relief measure, though the idea has been rebuffed by both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.  

Trump will deliver remarks on the economy, sign an executive order intended to boost domestic drug manufacturing, and attend a fundraiser during the daylong trip to Ohio. He will then head to his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., and is expected to attend a fundraiser in the Hamptons over the weekend.

Tags Charles Schumer Steven Mnuchin Nancy Pelosi Mark Meadows Donald Trump

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