Progress Made In Stimulus Talks, But Deal Still Nowhere In Sight

( Progress has been made in negotiations for the next coronavirus economic stimulus package, but a deal is far from imminent.

A productive meeting was held over the weekend between White House officials including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Talks are set to resume again on Monday, and Meadows said he and Mnuchin would be working hard every day this week on Capitol Hill. Still, it seems unlikely a deal will be reached in the near future.

As Meadows said Sunday:

“We will be speaking to both the president on a regular basis and the staff on a regular basis and … we will be back every day until we solve this. We’ll be meeting again tomorrow. But I’m not optimistic that there will be a solution in the very near term.”

Schumer said following Saturday’s meeting that “we’re not close yet, but it was a productive discussion.”

Many members of the House of Representatives have already left Washington, D.C., for the regularly-scheduled five-week break. Once a deal is in place, though, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said members would be recalled to vote on a package with 24 hours’ notice, at least.

As he said Friday:

“We’re not announcing the August work period. We will be ready to act as soon as we can on COVID-19 relief … I will call this House back into session … at the very minute that we have an agreement.”

The Senate’s regularly-scheduled four-week break is set to start on Monday, August 10. As of yet, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not announced what would happen with that break if a deal weren’t agreed upon by this Friday.

There are major sticking points in negotiations between Republicans and Democrats. House Democrats passed a roughly $3 trillion relief package in May, while Senate Republicans proposed a roughly $1 trillion in late July.

Democrats are seeking roughly $1 trillion in aid for local and state governments. Republicans, meanwhile, don’t want to give more money to them, opting instead to provide flexibility for the use of funds that were approved in March.

Democrats are seeking protections for workers, while Republicans want a five-year liability protection in place for businesses and health-care facilities.

Democrats want to extend the $600 per-week federal boost to unemployment benefits through the end of the year, while Republicans want something much less generous.

That last point is proving to be particularly contentious between the parties. As Mnuchin said recently:

“Unemployment is supposed to be wage replacement, so it should be tied to some percentage of wages. The fact that we had a flat number was only an issue of emergency where we had 30-year-old computer systems.”

Another potential issue in negotiations is that not all Republicans are on board with another stimulus plan. Even McConnell said he estimated that 15 to 20 Republican senators “are not going to vote for anything.”