For Americans waiting on virus aid, no new relief in sight

Marco Green
August 13, 2020

A breakdown in talks between the White House and top Democrats in Congress over how to provide relief to tens of millions of Americans suffering in one of the worst economic downturns in USA history entered a fifth day on Wednesday, with neither side ready to resume negotiations.

"We're miles apart", House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a televised interview on Wednesday, saying education funding and other needs are division points.

Democrats had offered to cut their 3.4 trillion-U.S. -dollar relief proposal by 1 trillion dollars if Republicans would agree to increase their roughly 1 trillion-dollar package by the same amount, but were rebuffed.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, said Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are using economic hardships being felt by tens of millions of Americans to pressure Trump and Republicans. "However, it is clear that the administration still does not grasp the magnitude of the problems that American families are facing". "There are things that we'd still like to do with additional legislation".

As a stopgap measure Trump signed four executive orders over the weekend, including one to provide $400 a week in additional unemployment benefits to jobless workers. "And the result ought to be directly related to the COVID-19 crisis, kids back in school, jobs, healthcare, direct cash payments to low-income people, who need our help", he said.

While there is some common ground over $100 billion for schools and new funds for virus testing, Democrats also want other emergency funds that Trump rejects, including to shore up the U.S. Postal Service and election security ahead of the November election.

Later on Wednesday, Mnuchin issued a statement disputing Democrats' version of the call but confirming - effectively - that talks are dead.

President Donald Trump accused congressional Democrats on Wednesday of not wanting to negotiate over a US coronavirus aid package because he was refusing to go along with "ridiculous" spending requests unrelated to the pandemic.

"I can't speculate. If the Democrats are willing to be reasonable, there's a compromise", Mnuchin said. "Her statement is not an accurate reflection of our conversation". "We have again made clear to the Administration that we are willing to resume negotiations once they start to take this process seriously".

The two parties are not in the same ballpark on the overall cost of the bill, which Democrats have said can not be less than $2 trillion.

Instead, the Senate appears likely to recess on Thursday for the remainder of the month. "The first week of September will be dedicated to committee work, with the House in session for votes the following three weeks", said Hoyer earlier this week.

Asked Wednesday if it was possible that there would be no deal until that deadline approached, Pelosi said, "I hope not, no. People will die". And it looks increasingly possible that there will be no new deal on coronavirus legislation until sometime in September, when an October 1 government shutdown deadline will force legislative action of some kind.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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