Meadows Puts Onus for Relief on Congress as White House Retreats

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, a onetime lead negotiator on a fiscal stimulus package, said Wednesday it’s up to Congress to proceed with any talks, even though the issue has been a “priority” for President Donald Trump.

“Obviously those discussions — if they happen — will be dictated by the House and the Senate,” Meadows told reporters when asked about stimulus talks following a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “We haven’t seen a real willingness by our House colleagues to look at that.”

Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been the primary negotiators on Covid-19 relief with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before the election. His remarks are further evidence that the White House is pulling back from the discussions after Trump’s loss to President-elect Joe Biden. He said getting another stimulus “has been a priority for the president.”

He spoke a day after Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer wrote McConnell calling for him to engage in talks this week. For his part, McConnell Wednesday ridiculed the $2.4 trillion Democratic bill that Pelosi and Schumer have said should be the starting point for negotiations.

“The problem is that their proposal is a multi-trillion dollar laughingstock that never had a chance of becoming law,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

McConnell reiterated his demand that any package be “targeted” and around $500 billion.

McConnell hasn’t responded to the letter from Pelosi and Schumer, according to a House Democratic aide. Senate Democrats on Wednesday morning upped the ante by introducing a new proposal to provide $10 billion for personal protection equipment for inclusion in the next relief package. It was another sign of how far apart the two sides remain.

Democrats and Republicans both have reported better dynamics on talks to extend funding for the federal government, which runs out on Dec. 11.

Schumer said Wednesday that both parties are striving for an omnibus package that would incorporate multiple appropriations bills for the government. Even so, Meadows declined to answer a question on whether Trump would sign such a bill.

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