House Democrats said they are making progress with White House officials on a deal to pass a new round of coronavirus aid after meeting for more than two hours Monday. But Republicans are accusing Democrats of putting politics ahead of a deal.
“We are really getting an understanding of each side’s position,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said after a Monday afternoon meeting with Trump administration officials. “And we’re making some progress on certain issues, moving closer together. There are a lot of issues that are still outstanding, but I think there is a desire to get something done as soon as we can.”
The Democrats met with top White House officials, among them Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who has been an integral part of negotiating four previous coronavirus spending bills totaling $3 trillion. Mnuchin left the meeting Monday afternoon and walked over to the Senate, where he planned to brief Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the two sides “still have our differences” and are now “trying to have a clearer understanding of what the needs are.”
Lawmakers are under pressure to sign off on a deal because the proposal will include extending enhanced unemployment benefits that have now expired. Democrats have rejected proposals simply to extend the benefits, citing their need to maintain leverage for a larger bill.
Republicans accuse Democrats of holding up a deal to insist on including unrelated spending, such as a provision that would lift the cap on blue-state property tax deductions and other liberal wish list items.
“Nobody gets a dime unless the Democratic leader gets a massive tax cut for rich people in New York and California,” McConnell said. “That’s what he’s saying. The speaker of the House and the Democratic leader continued to say, ‘our way or the highway,’ with a massive wish list for left-wing lobbyists.”
Democrats want a measure that spends much more money than the GOP, including hundreds of billions of dollars in state and local aide and $400 billion for schools, which is 4 times higher than the Republican coronavirus aid proposal. Democrats also want to include “hazard pay” for some workers, more money for expanding food stamps, and a provision allowing illegal immigrants to receive a new round of stimulus checks.
The GOP bill would cost about $1 trillion, compared to a House measure with a $3.5 trillion price tag.
More closed-door discussions are planned, the Democrats said.
“We will keep at it and at it and at it because the nations demands a solution, a bold solution that will slay this virus once and for all,” Schumer said.