Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer call on Republicans to accept $2 trillion COVID-19 relief price tag

Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer call on Republicans to accept $2 trillion COVID-19 relief price tag

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schummer accused White House negotiators of drawing a red line on a top figure for a comprehensive coronavirus relief package.

The top Democrats said they offered a middle ground price tag between their $3.4 trillion proposal and the GOP’s $1 trillion.

“Yesterday, I offered to them, we’ll take down $1 trillion if you add $1 trillion in. They said absolutely not,” Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said. “If we could do that, if we take down $1 trillion and they add $1 trillion, we’ll be within range, but we must meet the needs of the American people.”

Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, put most of the blame on White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, accusing the fiscal conservative of refusing to compromise.

“Basically what’s happening is Mr. Meadows is from the tea party. You have 20 Republicans in the Senate greatly influenced by them. And they don’t want to spend the necessary dollars to help get America out of this mess. Ideology sorta blinds them,” Mr. Schumer said.

“The House doesn’t have the votes to go south of $2 trillion. The Senate Democrats won’t support something less than $2 trillion,” he added.

This fifth coronavirus relief package is the first round of negotiations Mr. Meadows has been a part of as the president’s liaison.

Senate Republicans, however, are already split over their own proposal, with about a dozen of their ranks skeptical of adding another $1 trillion to the nearly $3 trillion coronavirus tab that Congress has created.

In turn, Mr. Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said Democrats have rejected their offers of compromise on boosted unemployment insurance and haven’t offered any serious compromises of their own.

While there’s an overlap in having schools, extended unemployment benefits, direct payments to the public as top priorities, the sticking points are, as always, in the details — who qualifies and how much to spend.

Additionally, Republicans have a heavy emphasis on liability protection, which Democrats said are unnecessary.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are pushing for funds for mail-in-ballots and elections, the financially struggling post office, food security programs, and a surge of funding for state and local governments — none of which have gained traction with the Republicans.

The four leaders are meeting Friday afternoon for their 11th negotiation session.

Mr. Meadows and Mr. Mnuchin said a larger deal or even a short-term “skinny” extension for top priorities remained President Trump’s preference, but they needed agreements on major issues by Friday or Mr. Trump would move forward with executive action.

The president is looking at an executive order that would include a payroll tax cut, eviction protections, extensions on boosted unemployment and flexibility on student loan repayment.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Friday the payroll tax cut order has been drafted.

Democrats argued the executive orders would be a waste because of how many Americans would be left out and how it would build up the debts the public will have to pay when the extensions are lifted.

“It’s not that the executive orders might be negative, but they’re totally insufficient,” Mr. Schumer said. “They can’t spend money, they can only forward money.”

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