Coronavirus stimulus negotiations between Democratic leaders and the Trump administration remain tied up over how much of a weekly boost to provide unemployed Americans, millions of whom will miss out on a $600 enhancement starting this week.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday that the White House recently put a one-week extension of the $600 supplemental benefit on the table, giving lawmakers and the administration more time to hammer out a long-term plan. But Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, rejected the idea.
“We proposed a one-week extension at $600 so while we negotiate, at least those people won’t lose their money,” Mnuchin said. “I’m surprised Democrats don’t want to agree with that. They’re insistent on having this as part of a larger deal.”
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, said in an interview last week that Democrats were entering talks seeking a comprehensive package, not “a piecemeal approach.”
Mnuchin said he and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows “have made three or four different offers” on unemployment that Democrats have brushed aside. The Trump administration and Republican lawmakers believe the $600 amount is too high, resulting in a disincentive for workers to go back to their jobs.
A recent Yale University study, however, “found no evidence that recipients of more generous benefits were less likely to return to work.”
Mnuchin, who noted that he attended Yale, disputed the study and said that some people were overpaid and some were underpaid.
He also emphasized that Republicans and the Trump administration are trying to balance spending with providing aid. He noted that previous stimulus packages received overwhelming bipartisan support and injected more than $3 trillion into the American economy.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed a $1 trillion plan last week; the Democrats approved a $3 trillion aid package two and a half months ago.
“There’s obviously a need to support workers, to support the economy and people who, through no fault of their own, are shut down because of this terrible disease,” Mnuchin said. “On the other hand, we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amounts of debt for future generations.”
Pelosi told ABC’s Martha Raddatz on Sunday that the 30 million unemployed Americans concerned about the enhanced unemployment running out should talk with President Donald Trump.
“He’s the one standing in the way,” she said, referencing the GOP’s plan to reduce the unemployment bonus to $200, an amount she considered “condescension” rather than a legitimate proposal.
Trump on Friday accused Democrats of blocking a temporary extension, claiming they were “more interested in playing politics than in helping our deserving people.”
Second stimulus talks tied up over $600 unemployment bonus; Democrats reject Trump administration’s short-term extension offer https://t.co/A4S979PMDE
— masslivenews (@masslivenews) August 2, 2020
But Trump has also essentially agreed with Democrats more than Senate Republicans on a few fronts during negotiations. GOP senators have not wanted any extension of the $600 bonus, nor have they wanted to extend a moratorium on evictions that both Democrats and Trump recently called for.
Trump also said he’s willing to provide larger stimulus checks to Americans, which is more aligned with the House and Senate Democrats’ position.
Pelosi hinted that Democrats would offer some wiggle room on the final amount of enhanced unemployment, but she cited the Yale study and argued the data didn’t back up Republican arguments that $600 was too generous.
She made the case that the GOP was scrutinizing $600 for unemployed Americans while not leveling the same oversight over millions of dollars provided through the Paycheck Protection Program, a small business loan initiative created in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“This is making a difference,” she said of the $600. “This is keeping people out of poverty. It’s essential for America’s working families. To disrespect their motivation is so amazing.”
Pelosi added that Democrats are “unified on the $600,” while the GOP is “in disarray.”
“Many of the Republicans don’t want any stimulus,” she said.
McConnell previously told PBS News that as many as 20 GOP senators believe enough stimulus funding has already been provided.
Mnuchin said he and Meadows would go back to Capitol Hill “every day until we reach an agreement.”
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