Meadows, Mnuchin recommend Trump use executive power for coronavirus relief

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White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said Friday they are recommending President Trump move forward with executive orders on COVID-19 relief, as negotiations with Democrats collapsed.

“The president would like us to make a deal but unfortunately we did not make any progress today. We discussed the same issues,” Mr. Mnuchin told reporters.

Shortly after the talks broke down Friday afternoon, Mr. Trump tweeted, “We are going a different way!”

He said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer are “only interested in Bailout Money for poorly run Democrat cities and states. Nothing to do with China Virus! [They] Want one trillion dollars. No interest.”

Mr. Mnuchin said the president and his team feel they have no choice but to take executive action to help millions of people who still need help after enhanced $600 weekly unemployment benefits expired last week.

“We agree with the Speaker, this is not the first choice but people have run out of the enhanced unemployment,” he added. “The president wants action. At this point, we’re going to recommend to the president that over the weekend we move forward with some executive actions.”

The two White House negotiators will recommend the president’s orders cover unemployment, student loans, and rental foreclosures.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Friday the White House has completed a draft executive order for Mr. Trump to suspend payroll taxes, but Mr. Mnuchin didn’t mention that option in his list of pending actions.

Democrats argued the executive orders would be too limited and leave too many Americans without aid while piling up debts because the president doesn’t have the power to issue new funds.

Both sides emerged from the eleventh-hour negotiation meeting Friday afternoon frustrated with the lack of progress and accusing the other of refusing to compromise.

The top Democrats said they offered a middle ground price tag between their $3.4 trillion proposal and the GOP’s $1 trillion.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said she told Republicans “to come back” when they’re willing to accept a price tag over $1 trillion.

For the White House, that was a non-starter.

“Even with their [one] trillion-dollar Washington, D.C., magical way of saying they’re going to come down a trillion, they can’t come up with any significant cuts in their bill. What they want is two and a half trillion-dollar blank check,” Mr. Meadows said.

Mrs. Pelosi said Democrats were willing to shorten the length of time on some of their programs and funding to cut down on the cost, but said Republicans are asking for too steep of cuts, particularly on food security programs, which she said they agreed to work on but were very far apart on how much to spend.

Mr. Mnuchin said the GOP would be willing to compromise on food programs, given the last until January, and even investing in broadband for virtual learning, but saw major chasms in three issues at the crux of the pandemic.

He said Republicans need to get serious proposals from Democrats to compromise on state and local government funding — which they have at $915 billion — and the enhanced $600 unemployment benefits.

Additionally, Republicans have a heavy emphasis on liability protection, which Democrats feel are unnecessary.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are pushing for funds for mail-in ballots and elections, the financially struggling post office, food security programs, and a surge of funding for state and local governments.

Despite their frustrations and the fact that talks are apparently dead in the water for now, both sides left the door open for any further proposals.

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