Congress 'miles apart' on stimulus deal: What are the sticking points?
The stalemate over the next rescue bill appears likely to drag on for weeks, possibly into September
A compromise between White House officials and top Democrats on another economic relief package is still out of reach, one week after high-stake negotiations between the two parties collapsed.
The stalemate over the next rescue bill appears likely to drag on for weeks, possibly into September, putting at risk potentially trillions of dollars in aid amid a pandemic that's infected more than 5 million and triggered an economic downturn that rivals the Great Depression.
Both sides indicated on Thursday that an agreement is still out of reach after six days of no in-person meetings. Democrats are now saying they will only sit down with Republicans if they agree to a $2 trillion price tag.
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Asked Thursday when she thought she might speak with Republicans again, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters: "I don’t know. When they come in with $2 trillion."
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has called the $2 trillion figure a "non-starter," and called on Democrats to return to the bargaining table and compromise on a $1 trillion package.
"My view on negotiations is you agree on the things that you can agree on, have legislation that's good for the American public, and then come back for another bill," Mnuchin told FOX Business on Wednesday.
The Senate is now scheduled to be in recess until Labor Day, after technically remaining in session an extra week. But most members returned to their home districts last week. House lawmakers left last week and are not slated to return until the second week of September.
Here are the issues that Democrats and Republicans have cited as the biggest obstacles to striking a deal:
The two sides are at odds over whether states should receive additional funding in the next round of emergency aid -- and if so, how much. Democrats' proposal allocates about $1 trillion in new funding for state and local governments, while Republicans' package includes no new funding for states.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, one of the lead White House negotiators, called Democrats' request for $1 trillion for states "an absurd number," saying there's "plenty" of cash available already for the governments.
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"We’re not going to give a trillion dollars for state and local," he said during an interview with CNBC on Monday. "That’s just not a reasonable approach."
During meetings last week, Mnuchin said the administration offered $150 billion more in funding.
But Democrats rejected that offer, contending that without more federal funding, state and local governments -- which combined employ about 23.2 million essential workers -- will be forced to lay off employees and cut essential services.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, speaking from the Senate floor, warned that the “economy is failing” and “state and local governments are cutting essential services.”
Postal service funding:
Another point of contention between the two sides is whether to include money for the cash-poor Postal Service. On Thursday, President Trump blamed Democrats for holding up the aid package with their request to allocate more funding to the USPS and in-mail voting.
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“The items are the Post Office and the $3.5 billion for mail-in voting,” Trump told FOX Business' Maria Bartiromo. “If we don’t make the deal, that means they can’t have the money, that means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. It just can’t happen.”
The House-backed legislation includes $25 billion in funding for the Postal Service and would repeal several restrictions on a $10 billion line of credit for the cash-poor agency approved in an earlier aid package.
Democrats have requested $60 billion in food assistance, while the GOP bill allocated $250,000.
An eviction moratorium that protected an estimated 12 million renters in federally backed properties expired at the end of July.
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There are some 110 million Americans living in rental households; up to 23 million renters -- or 20 percent -- are at risk of eviction by Sept. 30, according to an analysis by the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project.
Democrats are seeking $100 billion to help renters; Republicans have proposed zero.
Whether to extend the supplemental $600 a week in jobless aid has proven to be a key sticking point in negotiations.
Democrats have maintained the sweetened benefits need to be extended through the end of the year, while Republicans have argued that it disincentivizes Americans from returning to jobs that pay less, a notion economists have disputed.
On Saturday, President Trump bypassed Congress and promised to partially restore $400 a week in federal unemployment aid. Unlike the previous $600-a-week supplement, which was fully federally funded, the executive action that Trump signed on Saturday depends on states being able to fund 25%, or $100, of the aid.
The Labor Department has proposed letting states count the money they already pay out in unemployment benefits toward their share. States still have the option to chip in an extra $100, but few, if any, are expected to do so.
The average state unemployment benefit is about $330 per week. With the federal supplement, Americans can expect to receive about $630 in weekly unemployment benefits.