Meadows: 'Not optimistic' on COVID-19 stimulus deal, as lawmakers debate unemployment boost

Nicholas Wu and Savannah Behrmann, USA TODAY
·3 min read

WASHINGTON – White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows cast doubt on the possibility of a stimulus deal Wednesday afternoon, telling reporters on Capitol Hill after meetings with Democratic leaders, "I'm not optimistic we'll reach any kind of comprehensive deal."

“No deal certainly becomes a greater possibility the longer these negotiations take,” Meadows said, entering House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office for negations.

Leaving that meeting, where Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were also present, Meadows said bluntly he didn't "know that anything” would prompt a deal.

“We’re nowhere close to a deal,” Meadows continued. He added, “It means enhanced unemployment insurance provisions will expire” on Friday.

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Congressional leaders and White House officials have been meeting on Capitol Hill to continue negotiations on the latest economic relief package to help Americans grapple with the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

So far, there is little optimism from either side of the aisle that a coronavirus relief agreement could be struck.

A $600 boost to unemployment insurance introduced in the CARES Act and set to expire Friday has become a sticking point in negotiations, with many Republicans arguing the benefit may be a deterrent for workers to return to their jobs.

Democrats are seeking to extend the $600 assistance into next year, arguing it is necessary to help people who have lost their jobs.

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Mnuchin said Wednesday morning that Republicans and Democrats were “very far apart” on their proposals, but said he had talked with President Donald Trump about short-term legislation to extend the unemployment benefits and place a moratorium on evictions while both sides hammered out a comprehensive agreement.

However, following today's meeting, Meadows said Pelosi and Schumer shot down that idea, saying "Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer has made it very clear that they're not going to do that."

Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters after her meeting with Mnuchin and Meadows, "there is no short-term" agreement, and, "We have to have a comprehensive, full bill."

Schumer stated, "They have no comprehensive plan, they are trying to come up with a skinny little bill that doesn't address the moment, and they can't even pass that in their own Senate."

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Senate Republicans on Monday released their proposal on another coronavirus stimulus package, a roughly $1 trillion package that includes another round of direct checks to millions of Americans, more help for small businesses and money to help reopen schools.

Almost immediately, it was criticized by conservative lawmakers as misguided and expensive and by Democrats as a late effort that fell short of the nation's needs to weather the economic damage of COVID-19, which has infected nearly 4.3 million Americans and killed more than 150,000.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said at a Wednesday press conference the Republican plan was "totally irrelevant," "dead on arrival" and a "non-starter."

More: Mitch McConnell unveils $1 trillion pandemic aid package to criticisms from Republicans and Democrats

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Meadows: 'Not optimistic' on COVID-19 stimulus deal