Negotiations on a virus relief package ended Thursday night with the White House and Democrats making no headway on resolving their biggest difference, bringing the talks to the brink of collapse.
“There are a lot of issues we are close to a compromise position on,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said meeting for more than three hours with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. But they remain “very, very far apart on some significant issues.”
Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said there still are disagreements on the topline numbers for a stimulus bill and on individual provisions, including aid to state and local governments.
“The differences are still significant,” Meadows said.
Pelosi said Republicans are not facing up to the gravity of the economic calamity facing the U.S. Schumer said the meeting was “disappointing” because the White House wasn’t willing to meet them in the middle.
“We are very far apart,” Pelosi said. “It’s most unfortunate.”
It was unclear whether two sides will resume negotiations on Friday. Meadows and Mnuchin said they will call Pelosi and Schumer tomorrow to determine if it makes sense to meet. Schumer made clear Democrat are willing to keep talking.
Democrats have proposed a $3.5 trillion dollar package that passed the House in May, while Republicans countered last week with a $1 trillion proposal.
With no deal immediately in the offing, President Donald Trump said Thursday he is ready to sign orders extending enhanced unemployment benefits for the jobless and imposing a payroll tax holiday for employers and workers.
“The president’s first choice is to do a deal,” Mnuchin said. “If we conclude tomorrow that there is not a compromise position on the major issues, the president has alternatives in executive orders.”
Neither side indicated they would walk away if an agreement can’t be reached by Friday. But Mnuchin and Meadows said that unless some compromise can be found soon, more talks may be fruitless.
Meadows said the administration and Republicans have already given more ground than Democrats in talks.
The talks take on added urgency as time passes. The November general election is 89 days away and economic data show signs that the economy is still hobbling along.
The Labor Department reported that applications for unemployment benefits fell more than expected, to the lowest since the pandemic started. But with claims still exceeding 1 million on a weekly basis, the job market has a long road to fully recovering.
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