House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday brushed off criticism from the White House over stalled coronavirus relief negotiations, accusing the GOP of blaming the Democrats to distract from fighting within their own party.
“Every time they say something I say, perhaps you are characterizing yourself and think that that’s how we are — we’re not,” the California Democrat told reporters at her weekly press conference.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows slammed Mrs. Pelosi for refusing to cut even a deal for a benefit extension bill, which the speaker shot down again.
She argued that such short-term extensions are only useful when negotiators have a larger, more comprehensive deal in the works that will be delayed by procedural measures.
“What are you going to do in a week?” she said. “They don’t even have the votes for it in the Senate. … Why don’t we just get the job done?”
“The only accommodation that such a bill is, is if you’re on the path. We’re not,” she added.
Mrs. Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, Mr. Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin have met nearly every day this week to negotiate a bipartisan compromise between the Democrats‘ $3 trillion relief package and the GOP’s $1 trillion proposal.
The GOP is split over its own proposal, with more than a dozen Republican senators unhappy with spending even more money as the coronavirus tab reaches nearly $3 trillion — but they’re united in saying the Democrats‘ proposal is a partisan wish list and non-starter.
While there’s an overlap in what needs to be addressed, the sticking points are, as always, in the details — who qualifies and how much to spend.
The issue currently at the forefront of the talks is how Congress should address extra unemployment insurance and other coronavirus-specific benefits that are set to expire Friday.
Democrats want a straight extension of the $600 weekly payments, which come on top of normal unemployment benefits, while Republicans want to cut that down to $200 a week until states can implement a new system that would pay 70% of a worker’s previous wages.
GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Martha McSally of Arizona and Mitt Romney of Utah also rolled out a slightly different offer Thursday, which would include a scaled-down approach. It would have unemployment remain at $600 a week for the next month, decrease to $400 a week a month after that, and then finally down to around 80% of a worker’s previous wages.
Ms. McSally attempted to move a seven-day extension of the existing unemployment benefits, but her motion was blocked by Mr. Schumer, who argued it was a “stunt.”