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White House and Congress still far from agreement on coronavirus relief bill

Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- As millions of Americans drifted toward financial crisis, the two parties remained deadlocked after weekend talks on another round of economic relief intended to ease the burden of job losses from the worsening coronavirus outbreak.

Administration officials and Democratic congressional leaders spent hours Saturday huddled in the Capitol suite of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) without reaching a deal on extending enhanced unemployment benefits. That relief expired Friday, jeopardizing many families' ability to pay for rent and food while they wait for opportunities to return to work.

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said he was concerned about the legislation's potentially multi-trillion-dollar price tag.

"There's obviously a need to support workers, support the economy," Mnuchin told "This Week" on ABC News. But he added, "On the other hand, we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amounts of debt for future generations."

Pelosi, who appeared on the program shortly before Mnuchin, said Democrats didn't want to accept anything less than the $600-per-week enhanced unemployment benefit that began earlier this year. She blamed the impasse on Republicans struggling to reach an agreement among themselves.

"We are unified in our support for the $600," she said. "They are in disarray."

 

Although Pelosi said some progress was made Saturday, she did not share a timeline for reaching an agreement. Senate Republican leaders were absent from the meeting, deferring to the administration after President Trump called their proposal, which included only $200 for enhanced unemployment benefits, "sort of semi-irrelevant" during a news conference last week.

Trump appeared disengaged from the negotiations, spending much of the weekend on his golf course in Virginia. He seemed to sleep little, however, tweeting repeatedly and mostly about unrelated issues until after dark Saturday and before the sun rose Sunday.

On Saturday afternoon, he again proclaimed his support for a payroll tax cut, a proposal that his own party in Congress rejected and was never seriously considered in the negotiations on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, one of his top scientific advisers shared a dire picture of the coronavirus outbreak, which has already killed roughly 150,000 Americans, that contrasted with his own repeated claims that the nation is weathering the crisis well.

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