Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Saturday. This is a rare weekend session to try and break the stalemate between Republicans and Democrats over the next stimulus bill.
No deal was finalized. However, Mnuchin said he and Meadows were willing to meet with Democrats every day. This can go on until an agreement is reached.
The sticking point for Republicans is an unwillingness to extend the $600 per week unemployment benefit. They feel the amount needs to be pared down to a more reasonable $200 per week so that unemployed workers have a financial incentive to find work instead of making more money by remaining unemployed.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats want the $600 to be reinstated and have tied it to a host of other demands that have nothing to do with the pandemic, like their insistence on approving $1 trillion to be sent to state and local governments to fund budget shortfalls, food stamp increases, and assistance to renters and homeowners. Mnuchin said that's “something we're not going to do.”
Democrats Refuse to Agree
Mnuchin appeared on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday. There, he said the White House understands the need for extra unemployment benefits. However, he also says the Democrats are holding up the deal.
“The president is very concerned about the expiration of the unemployment insurance,” Mnuchin said, adding “We proposed a one-week extension at $600 so that, while we negotiate a longer term solution, at least all those people don't lose their money. I'm surprised the Democrats won't agree to that. They're insistent on having a larger deal.”
He also said that Republicans aren’t willing to burden our country with more debt.
“There’s obviously a need to support workers, support the economy,” Mnuchin said. “On the other hand, we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amounts of debt.”
Until a Deal Is Made
He added that the White House supports a one-week extension of the $600 per week until a deal is struck. However, he believes $200 is a more appropriate amount for the extra weekly benefit.
“There are cases where people are overpaid,” Mnuchin said.
He did add that both sides agreed on the need for another $1200 stimulus payment for Americans, and that once approved, the checks could be in the mail within a week.
Both sides have agreed to meet daily until a deal is struck, and at least one Democrat sounds optimistic that a deal will be reached sooner rather than later.
“This was the longest meeting we've had and it was more productive than the other meetings,” said Schumer. “We're not close yet, but it was a productive discussion — now each side knows where they're at.”
Chief of Staff Meadows, however, doesn’t expect a deal is forthcoming. Appearing yesterday on CBS’s “Face The Nation,” Meadows said, “I’m not optimistic that there will be a solution in the very near term.”
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