The White House and its GOP allies appear to be retreating from their opposition to a $600 per week supplemental unemployment benefit that has propped up both the economy and family budgets but is expiring today.
President Donald Trump is plainly eager to extend the benefit, undercutting his GOP allies on Capitol Hill who have spent considerable effort on devising an alternative to it that could unite Republicans.
The unemployment insurance is a principal element as talks continue on a COVID-19 relief bill, which is expected to grow considerably from a $1 trillion-plus GOP draft released this week. The negotiations were continuing Friday after late-night talks at the Capitol failed to produce a breakthrough.
The two sides took their case to the media Friday morning, with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows appearing before reporters on short notice at the exact moment House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared at her weekly news conference.
Meadows accused Democrats of refusing to negotiate, saying Trump has instructed him to be “aggressive and forward-leaning” in trying to extend the supplemental jobless benefit.
“Democrats have made zero offers over the last three days,” said Meadows, an inexperienced negotiator and former tea party lawmaker. He said Democrats are “willing to play politics” and are acting like they “hold all the cards.”
The White House on Thursday offered a one-week extension of the $600 weekly unemployment benefit, top Democrats said, but Pelosi rejected it, saying it needs to be addressed as part of a far more sweeping bill that would deliver aid to state and local governments, help for the poor and funding for schools and colleges to address the pandemic. Without action, the unemployment benefit runs out today—and both the House and Senate have exited Washington.
Also at issue in the negotiations is an almost $1 trillion Democratic demand for funding for state and local governments, a second $1,200 direct payment to most American adults, more than $100 billion to help schools reopen, and a liability shield measure.