Congressional Democrats, White House see little progress in coronavirus relief talks

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows leave after speaking to reporters following continued negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N

UPDATED, with additional Trump comments: Laid off and furloughed workers in entertainment face even more uncertainty over unemployment benefits, as negotiations on Capitol Hill stalled over a massive new coronavirus relief package.

"If Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage, I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need", Trump told a news conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that Democrats were willing to compromise at $2 trillion for the fourth coronavirus stimulus package, but that the Trump administration rejected their offer. Instead, he is considering using executive powers to provide some limited aid.

Trump said the order could "by the end of the week", and that he has lawyers now drawing up the order.

Trump did not specify how much the unemployment supplement would be for, but it would be retroactive to the beginning of the month.

Kudlow later added that executive orders would involve three big provisions of any stimulus bill: "The evictions, the payroll tax, unemployment reform".

Both sides admitted the odds of an agreement are uncertain ahead of the Friday deadline President Donald Trump gave, threatening to act via executive order if no legislative deal is possible. "They're being drawn (up) by the lawyers right now".

Republicans insisted they've raised their original numbers when it comes to the overall deal - they wanted a $1 trillion package while Democrats proposed a $3.4 trillion one - but Democrats countered it wasn't enough to help out-of-work Americans and to counter the economic hit of the coronavirus pandemic.


Chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are expected to meet with Schumer and Pelosi on Friday. "The speaker made a very fair offer".

But the White House's negotiators - Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin - refused to budge.

Schumer acknowledged that the two did come a "little tiny bit" in the Democrats' direction on direct aid to state and local governments, but "not in the middle, or close to it". The state aid has been a particular sticking point with Trump, which he opposes and emphasised in a tweet yesterday. In a dear colleague letter sent out during the press conference, Pelosi said that Meadows and Mnuchin offered only $150 billion to Democrats' desired $915 billion in direct aid, an amount she said "would guarantee mass layoffs of health care workers, first responders, transit workers, sanitation and food workers and teachers".

There also are differences on the Democrats' demand to extend the US$600 a week supplemental unemployment bonus that has expired, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell's insistence on a temporary liability shield for companies, schools and other organisations. Democrats are pushing for a $3.4-trillion spending package, while the GOP proposal is worth around $1 trillion. "Senate Democrats can't go south of $2 trillion, so that's what compromise is all about". Schumer pointed out that some of Republican senators would be unlikely to support a bill regardless of size.

U.S. employers added 1.8 million jobs in July, and the unemployment rate dropped to 10.2 percent amid reopening efforts, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

The two White House negotiators will recommend the president's orders cover unemployment, student loans, and rental foreclosures.

"The president can make all the claims he wants, he cannot solve this problem by executive order", the Senate's number two Democrat, Dick Durbin, told MSNBC.

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