White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Sunday expressed little confidence that a deal will be reached soon on a fourth coronavirus stimulus package.
“We still have a long ways to go,” Meadows, one of the chief negotiators, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” after a week of stalled talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“Yesterday was a step in the right direction. I’m not optimistic there will be a solution in the very near term.”
With Congress unable to agree on a fourth aid package, the White House last week dispatched Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to negotiate with Democrats as the $600 per week boost to unemployment benefits was set to expire.
But the negotiations have proved fruitless and jobless benefits ended at midnight on Friday with no deal in sight, affecting tens of millions of Americans who have lost their jobs amid the pandemic.
Meadows has repeatedly blamed Pelosi and Schumer who he accused of rejecting a handful of offers this week to extend the benefits.
“If you have unemployed people that have lost their enhanced unemployment, they need to call their Democrat senators and House members, because they’re the ones standing in the way,” Meadows said Sunday.
President Trump also blamed Schumer and Pelosi in a series of tweets Friday.
Unemployment benefits have been the central issue in the negotiations. Republicans want to reduce the payments to $200 per week while Democrats are pushing to extend the current $600 rate to the first few months of 2021.
Both sides do however agree on a second round of stimulus checks worth up to $1,200.
Pelosi (D. Calif) was equally despondent on negotiations in an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” saying, “We will be close to an agreement when we have an agreement.”
When asked what she would say to Americans who have lost their benefits, Pelosi said: “Talk to President Trump. He’s the one who’s standing in the way of that.”
The speaker also pushed back on Meadows’ claim that he had made several offers, accusing Republicans of being in disarray while Democrats are in total agreement over the need for a $600-per-week boost to state unemployment.
“The idea that they made a proposal is really not actually factual,” she said.
Appearing on “This Week” immediately after Pelosi, Mnuchin said he believed the jobless payments led to many Americans being “overpaid” and argued it discouraged them from returning to the workforce.
“Unemployment is supposed to be a wage replacement, so it should be tied to some percentage of wages,” he said, saying that the only reason why Americans received a flat $600 rate is because of “30-year-old computer systems.”
“I think on the concept, we absolutely agree on enhanced unemployment. We want to fix the issue where in some cases people are overpaid.”
“There’s no question that in some cases where we’re paying people more to stay home than to work, that’s created issues in the entire economy,” he said.
At a press conference in Manhattan on Sunday, Schumer accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of “dithering” on negotiations and failing to engage with a rival $3 trillion bill the House passed in May.
“While it is a positive step that the White House is finally willing to make progress on these negotiations, significant divisions remain,” he said, calling for eviction protections and additional money for struggling state authorities.
“Months of delay and dithering by Leader McConnell has made all of this a lot harder, but when it comes to ensuring New York and the country have the funding needed to overcome the crisis, Democrats cannot waiver,” he continued.
“The pandemic has put about 1.8 million New Yorkers on unemployment, risks nearly a million people evicted, and marks a financial doomsday for local budgets that support sanitation workers, firefighters, teachers and more. We have to make sure these are the folks that get the help,” he said.