Democratic leaders say they are willing to reduce their demands for coronavirus stimulus legislation as President Trump prepares executive orders to cut payroll taxes, stop evictions and revive federal unemployment funds.
“If we take down a trillion and they add a trillion, we will be within range,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a Friday press conference.
But afternoon talks with White House negotiators were fruitless, both sides said, meaning Trump may sign the orders this weekend.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters that Democrats “want a $2.5 trillion blank check” and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he would recommend that Trump issue the orders.
Before the meeting, Pelosi told reporters she offered a vague $2 trillion compromise to White House negotiators on Thursday, but that “they said, ‘Absolutely not.’”
Pelosi said she offered a vague $2 trillion compromise to White House negotiators on Thursday, but that “they said, ‘Absolutely not.’”
“You should have seen the vehemence. ‘No!’ … You should have seen their faces,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Schumer said “we are willing to make compromises,” but conceded that the proposal to reduce Democratic demands “is mainly in terms of dates” and was unspecific.
In a tweet on Friday afternoon, the president repeated his charge that Democrats want a “bailout” for blue states and signalled he was not willing to negotiate.
“Pelosi and Schumer only interested in bailout money for poorly run Democrat cities and states. Nothing to do with China virus! Want one trillion dollars. No interest. We are going a different way!” he wrote.
Trump said Thursday he’s prepared to sign orders as early as Friday afternoon to extend a lapsed moratorium on evictions, resurrect a federal supplement for unemployment insurance pay, pause student loan payments and temporarily cut payroll taxes.
With the exception of the payroll tax cut, the policies are among the most widely supported COVID-19 measures in Washington. But they have been captive to a debate on other matters between Democrats and Republicans.
An estimated 23 million people could face eviction by October if the federal moratorium is not extended, and more than 30 million people are receiving state unemployment benefits.
In May, House Democrats passed a $3.4 trillion bill that included almost $1 trillion for state and local governments, something Republicans mostly oppose. A $1 trillion proposal from Senate Republicans includes a liability waiver for businesses, which Democrats largely oppose.
The sides agree they want to send another round of $1,200 stimulus checks.
Mnuchin, who brokered earlier pandemic deals with Pelosi and Schumer, said Friday afternoon that there was still a chance of a deal.
“If we can reach an agreement on state and local [aid] and unemployment [insurance], we can reach an overall deal. And if we can’t, we won’t,” he said.
Democrats and Republicans in Congress strongly disagree on how large a federal unemployment insurance supplement should be. Republican leaders wanted to peg the supplement to 70 percent of pre-pandemic pay, but Democrats want to revive the expired $600-a-week boost. It’s unclear what rate Trump would order.
Schumer blamed Meadows for a lack of progress, saying that “his positions are quite hardened and non-compromising, more so than Mnuchin.”
The executive orders would stoke intense debate among scholars and attorneys. Congress typically holds the power to spend money.
Schumer said the executive orders can only “lend” money, meaning that ultimately the recipients would have to pay it back to the federal government.