GOP, Democrats 'very far apart' on stimulus talks, Mnuchin says
WASHINGTON - With a pair of deadlines approaching and double-digit unemployment, lawmakers are feeling the heat to reach a deal on another comprehensive stimulus package.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters Wednesday Congressional Republicans, along with the White House, and Democrats remain “very far apart.”
President Donald Trump suggested a short-term deal could be reached to prevent the $600-per-week federal unemployment benefits and federal moratorium on evictions from expiring on Friday.
“We want to work on the evictions so people don’t get evicted,” Trump told reporters. “We’ll work on the payments for the people. And the rest of it, we’re so far apart we don’t care.”
Leaders on Capitol Hill remain divided now that both parties have presented their proposals to curb not only the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which hit a grim milestone this week of 150,000 deaths in the U.S.; but also the economic recovery, with a national unemployment rate of 11.1 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Part of what we’re doing now is really airing our differences,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday.
“There is no chance – zero chance – America can get back to normal without the (Texas Sen. John) Cornyn liability protection,” said Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday.
That divide comes as a second deadline approaches: Aug. 7 – the last day the Senate is scheduled to be in session before a month-long summer recess. House members are scheduled to return to their districts, but several lawmakers have told KITV4 they likely will remain in Washington next if a deal is not reached in the coming days.
The two sides are left debating between the scaled-down $1 trillion Senate Republican proposal, known as the HEALS Act, released Monday. Democrats stand by the much larger $3 trillion package, known as the HEROES Act, the House passed along party lines in May.
“I can’t believe Senate Republicans pretended like this would all just go away,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) about COVID-19.
“We really need to look at very targeted relief and incentivizing people to get back to work because the best stimulus is a job,” said Rep. Fred Keller (R-Pa.)
Some Senate Republicans also remain split on the overall price tag of the package. That means GOP leaders will have to not only win Democratic support for the bill, but likely some within their own party.
“When we get to the end of the process, I would hope all of the non-COVID related measures are out,” McConnell said.
Democrats are unlikely to agree to a deal that does not include provisions like aid for state and local governments not included in the GOP outline.
“People still really need help,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). “There are a lot of folks that don’t have any option to go back to work yet.”
Republicans and the White House insist liability protection must be included to pass.