The White House threatened to act on its own to provide coronavirus relief Wednesday after another day of talks with Democrats yielded no agreement.
Though the Trump administration apparently yielded ground in bargaining over extended unemployment insurance, a range of issues remained unresolved Wednesday after officials’ latest meeting with Democratic leaders. Leaving a roughly two-hour huddle with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters the sides had “no agreement.”
Congress and the Trump administration have struggled to strike an aid agreement after the enhanced unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions from federally-backed housing expired in late July. Millions of Americans still unable to find work will now see a staggering drop in income until lawmakers can pass legislation.
In a CNN interview after Wednesday’s meeting, Meadows said President Donald Trump would take executive action to extend both extra jobless benefits and the eviction moratorium if Democrats and the White House fail to strike a deal. The threat may be a negotiating tactic because it is unclear if Trump has the power to take those steps. Congress controls federal funding.
“If Congress can’t get it done, the president of the United States will,” Meadows told CNN.
After the talks, Schumer told reporters that Democrats “are not walking away” from discussions. The New York Democrat said the sides have “wide differences” as they struggle toward an agreement.
Pelosi would not give any assurances about how long it would take negotiators to strike a deal.
“I feel optimistic that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But how long the tunnel is remains to be seen,” the California Democrat told reporters.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration team offered to extend extra federal unemployment insurance into December at $400 per week, NBC News and Politico reported. The White House had floated keeping the previous $600 a week benefit for a week while negotiators hashed out a broader deal. Senate Republicans have proposed a plan that would set the insurance at $200 per week through September, then change the benefit to 70% wage replacement.
Mnuchin and Meadows also offered to extend the eviction moratorium into December, the news outlets said. Democrats cut their request for U.S. Postal Service funding to $10 billion from $25 billion, according to the reports.
The four negotiators also met with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Wednesday. Schumer said they had a “heated discussion” about ensuring efficient mail delivery when millions of Americans cast their ballots by mail in November during the coronavirus pandemic.