Dems, GOP far from COVID-19 relief deal as $600 jobless benefit expires

Divided Senate Republicans lack the votes to go forward on a relief bill without Democratic support.

Enhanced unemployment benefits for more than 30 million Americans expired Friday after negotiations between congressional Democrats and the White House failed to produce any agreement on a new coronavirus relief bill.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Friday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., rejected four GOP offers, including a one-week extension of the supplemental $600-per-week federal jobless benefit.

"The Democrats believe that they have all the cards on their side," Meadows said Friday at a White House news conference. "And they're willing to play those cards at the expense of those that are hurting."

President Trump then blasted Schumer and Pelosi over a series of tweets Friday afternoon, accusing the Democratic leaders of having "no interest in making a deal that is good for our country and for our people."

But Schumer and Pelosi contend the White House isn't grasping the seriousness of the crisis and signing onto a one-week extension of unemployment is worthless unless there's a deal on the horizon that addresses the broader needs of suffering Americans.

"They want to do one small thing that won’t solve the problem," Schumer said Thursday.

"We don't have shared values," Pelosi added Friday at her news conference.

Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who are negotiating on behalf of the White House, will resume talks with Schumer and Pelosi at 9 a.m Saturday at the speaker's office.

"We anticipate that we will have a bill," Pelosi said. "But we're not there yet."


On Thursday, Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., proposed a vote on a one-week extension for the $600 payment. Congress passed the additional aid at the start of the pandemic to supplement state benefits, which -- on average -- pay about $330 a week. Schumer objected to the move, which he called a "stunt."

An estimated 30 million Americans now will receive only their state benefits, if they still qualify for them.

Democrats want to extend the federal supplement through January 2021. Republicans, however, proposed in their coronavirus package reducing the $600 payment to $200 until states can adopt a new approach that would cap the aid at 70 percent of the income workers received before they lost their jobs.

Republicans have argued the expanded jobless benefits were so generous they prevented people from returning to work.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has sat out the talks between Congressional Democrats and the White House. The Kentucky Republican is stuck because his slim majority doesn't agree on what to do next and, consequently, lacks the votes to go forward without Democratic support.

Instead, the GOP is daring Democrats to oppose an interim extension of just unemployment assistance next week at the $200 level.

McConnell has also insisted on new protections for businesses against coronavirus lawsuits in a broader relief package, but the liability shield is not a must-have for the White House, the Washington Post reported.


The White House wants to extend unemployment benefits and renew expiring provisions to protect renters from evictions, but certain Senate Republicans argue additional spending will drive the federal deficit too high.

“There are about 20 of my members who think we've already done enough and some who regret that we did what we did back in April and March," McConnell said in an interview with Fox News' Martha MacCallum earlier this week. "I do have about 20 members who feel that we've added enough to the national debt.”


Schumer and Pelosi, meanwhile, have so far rejected any piecemeal approach and want to hold out for an agreement on a larger deal they say is necessary to address the seriousness of the health crisis and economic downturn.

Among their priorities: sweeping aid for state and local governments to help plug their revenue shortfalls, more food assistance to low-income families and enhanced funding for schools.

The House passed a $3 trillion relief plan in May and has been waiting on Senate Republicans to respond. The GOP plan that McConnell unveiled this week, which the chamber hasn't voted on, costs about $1 trillion.

Fox News' Chad Pergram and Fox Business Network's Megan Henney contributed to this report.