White House Floats $ 600 Temporary Extension of Benefit

By Andrew Taylor and Lisa Mascaro | Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The White House and some of its Republican allies in the Senate are indicating that they want to extend, at least temporarily, an expanded unemployment benefit of $ 600 per week that has helped keep families and the economy afloat during the pandemic. COVID-19. The move appears to be too small, too late to officially avoid benefit expiration on Friday.

Republicans have been fighting to cut the $ 600 unemployment benefit in the next coronavirus package, but President Donald Trump and some Senate Republicans suggested they may agree to keep the full $ 600 benefit for now. Evening conversations were expected on Capitol Hill.

“We want a temporary extension of the improved unemployment benefits,” Trump said at the White House. “This will provide a critical bridge for Americans who lost their jobs due to the pandemic through no fault of their own.”

He added: “It has to be substantial.”

But Democrats so far have rejected an unsystematic approach, saying the next aid bill should move forward as a complete package. Before Trump spoke, Senate Republican Chief Mitch McConnell adjourned the camera session over the weekend as he took a procedural step that could allow him to vote on a possible compromise next week. The talks so far have produced little progress.

“I am not very optimistic that we will have some kind of agreement on a comprehensive bill in the near future,” said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. He said he even doubted an agreement could be reached next week.

Talks over the relief bill are stalled with little reason for optimism despite broad agreement among Washington’s top power players that Congress must pass more relief in the coming days and weeks.

Trump is eager for another round of relief, and it’s also a priority for Republican allies like McConnell, as well as for Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer. Democrats have a strong negotiating hand, with Republicans very divided on their own proposal.

Raising the stakes, a grim government report released Thursday said the economy contracted at an annualized rate of 33% in the second quarter of the year, a clear reminder of the economic damage plaguing the country as lawmakers debate size and size. scope for new relief.

“This discordant news should compel Congress to act quickly to provide targeted and temporary assistance to unemployed Americans, employers, and state and local governments, and liability protections for businesses that follow public health guidelines,” said Neal Bradley of the United States Chamber of Commerce, The powerful business group.

But the bipartisan talks have not yet reached a serious and productive phase. Democrats are playing hard, insisting on a package that is much larger than the more than $ 1 trillion measure unveiled by McConnell on Monday. Thursday brought more eye for an eye.

“They won’t get involved. Period, “McConnell said when the Senate opened.” Democrats say, my way or on the highway. “

However, Pelosi and McConnell have an extensive history. They often find ways to reach agreements, although the process involves intense maneuvers and many cross-talk.

In an interview Wednesday night, McConnell showed his willingness to consider some Democratic priorities, such as additional food aid. He and Trump have made it clear that they intend to obtain an invoice.

“The economy needs more help. We have divided the government. We have to talk to each other, ”McConnell said on PBS NewsHour. “And we have to try to get a result.”

Schumer continued his daily attack on McConnell and Republicans who control the Senate, noting that McConnell “refuses to enter the room” and join the talks in person, rather than transferring ownership of the talks to Meadows, along with the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has been a key architect of previous agreements.

“We are trying to negotiate,” said Schumer. “Who’s holding things?”

In another sign that Republicans are gearing up for the $ 600 unemployment benefit, Arizona Republican Martha McSally, who faces a tough reelection run this fall, offered a weeklong extension of the benefit in the Senate. Schumer blocked the movement.

Pelosi was running back to Washington after traveling to Atlanta for the funeral of Representative John Lewis, the civil rights icon. Pelosi’s office announced a meeting for Thursday night with White House negotiators.

Other stark differences remain between the Democrats ‘$ 3 trillion proposal and the Republicans’ $ 1 trillion meter. Money for states and cities is a crucial dividing line, as local governments request help to shore up budgets and avoid deeper layoffs as they incur COVID-19 costs and lose tax revenue in closed economies.

Democrats proposed nearly $ 1 trillion for local governments, but Trump and Republicans are reluctant to send more money to states and cities. Instead, the Republican Party offers flexibility to states to use $ 150 billion previously allocated for the virus on other needs.

It is clear that Democrats are trying to leverage a lead in the negotiations because Republicans are so divided over the possibility of additional government spending and unemployment benefits. Among the issues that will surely gain momentum is the Democratic demand for a 15% increase in food stamp benefits.

Trump has dismissed the Republican bill as “semi-irrelevant,” as it leaves out many Democratic elements.

Trump seems concerned about the expiration of the $ 600 unemployment benefit increase, as well as a federal moratorium on eviction of millions of rental units, which could lead to homes in devastating turmoil.