Stimulus talks near brink of collapse after rancorous meeting

Marco Green
August 8, 2020

After covid relief negotiations fell through Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump said at a surprise news conference he will take executive action if necessary.

"If the Democrats continue to hold this crucial support hostage, I will act through my authority as President to give Americans the support they need", Donald Trump said at a press conference called hurriedly in the evening at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

The president blamed top Democrats - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer - for failing to agree to a deal, and said they're trying to influence the outcome of November's election.

The White House had rejected Democrats' offer for a roughly 2-trillion-U.S. -dollar COVID-19 relief package, USA media reported Friday.

Both sides said they remained open to further negotiations.

Two people familiar with the matter said Trump would extend the supplemental unemployment insurance at a US$400 (RM1,675)-per-week level, a reduction from the US$600 in the last stimulus bill. It wasn't clear what mechanism he would use to fund the extension or how long it would be in place.

It is unclear if Trump has the authority to make unilateral moves on all of the issues suggested - eviction moratoriums, payroll taxes, student loan relief and redistributing already allotted funds - and when he would sign the orders.

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress authority over federal spending, so Trump does not have the legal authority to issue executive orders determining how money should be spent on the coronavirus. "They're being drawn (up) by the lawyers right now".

The White House, Mnuchin said, offered a compromise on extending federal unemployment benefits and would consider giving aid to renters so that they do not get evicted during the coronavirus pandemic that has hobbled the US economy.

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

Mnuchin and Meadows said that while talks made progress on a few areas of possible compromise, there still are disagreements on the topline numbers for a stimulus bill and on the biggest individual provisions, including aid to state and local governments that Democrats want. "Millions of Americans are still hurting", Pelosi and Schumer said.

Mr. Mnuchin said the GOP would be willing to compromise on food programs, given the last until January, and even investing in broadband for virtual learning, but saw major chasms in three issues at the crux of the pandemic. He also noted that the deferral could be extended if he is still in the Oval Office next year.

Earlier this week, Mnuchin and Meadows set a deadline for an agreement to be reached by Friday.

Democrats have advocated for a US$3 trillion-plus economic aid programme, while leading Republicans have proposed about a third of that. Democrats are demanding almost US$1 trillion in aid and warn of massive public sector layoffs in revenue starved areas.

He said more talks were expected today.

Rent and mortgage payments are typically the largest monthly expense for Americans: One in four tenant families pays more than half of its income for rent, a rate that's even higher in cities like San Francisco and NY, according to Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies.

The president also said he will also sign an executive order requiring health insurance companies to cover all preexisting conditions.

'Certainly there are limitations with what we can do from an executive order point of view but we will be as aggressive and robust as we possibly can be, ' Meadows said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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