WASHINGTON — Coronavirus aid negotiations continue to stall between lawmakers in Washington as millions of Americans face a financial breaking point amid the pandemic — with Nancy Pelosi vowing “we’re not budging.”
A call between the powerful House Speaker and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — their first communication in weeks — proved fruitless on Thursday with both sides far apart on how much should be spent.
Democrats in the House in May passed a generous $3.4 trillion aid package but Republicans balked at the large price tag and have refused to budge from their much slimmer $1 trillion bill.
Pelosi (D. Calif) told reporters that Democrats would be willing to make a $1 trillion concession but said GOP lawmakers were unwilling to meet them in the middle.
“We have said again and again that we are willing to come down, meet them in the middle — that would be $2.2 trillion,” Pelosi said after a 25-minute call with Meadows, per a Politico report.
“When they’re ready to do that, we’ll be ready to discuss and negotiate,” she continued. “I did not get that impression on that call.”
“That could be a very short conversation if they’re not willing to meet in the middle,” she said earlier Thursday. “We’re not budging. Understand this — they have to move.”
Negotiations between Pelosi, Meadows, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dragged on for weeks in early August but neither side was able to reach an agreement before the federal $600-per-week boost to unemployment insurance ran out.
Frustrated by the impasse, President Trump signed an executive order ensuring jobless Americans would still receive a reduced $300 weekly bonus to the state unemployment benefits.
Democrats and Republicans have been unable to see past their differences, with Democrats pushing for funding for states, schools, food stamps, the Postal Service and rental assistance as the GOP prioritizes help for small businesses and protection from COVID-19 insurance claims.
Meanwhile, millions of Americans have been rendered jobless by the pandemic which has shuttered large swathes of the country for months on end and has killed 180,000 people in the US.
More than 58 million Americans have filed unemployment claims during the pandemic as more large companies like American Airlines plan to lay off up to 19,000 staff.