Democrats report ‘progress, but a ways to go’ on coronavirus aid deal with White House

Democrats said they are encouraged by “productive” talks with White House officials Saturday, but there is the no final deal yet.

“We are not close yet, but it was a productive discussion,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said.

The main sticking point is the the size and scope of the benefits that the two sides seek to provide.

Schumer said the meeting “was the best discussion so far” and characterized the conclusion as “progress, but a ways to go.”

Democrats will meet again on Monday with the Trump team, which is the being led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

The talks began Saturday as enhanced federal unemployment benefits amounting to $600 per week expired. The two parties are at odds over whether to extend those benefits at the current level and for how long.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters before the meeting that she won’t back any short-term deal to extend the benefits, and Democrats have already rejected such an offer from the White House as well as a Senate measure to extend them for an additional week.

The California Democrat told reporters Saturday she wants an agreement on a broader coronavirus aid package.

Democrats are pushing the White House to accept a $3 trillion measure House Democrats passed In May, named the “HEROES Act” because it awards hazard pay to many workers.

The House bill is the three times the cost of a $1 trillion bill that Senate Republicans introduced last week.

“Central to all of this is the to defeat the coronavirus and very central to our HEROES Act is the a strategic plan to do that,” Pelosi said Saturday, explaining her negotiating tactic.

Democrats say the GOP measure does not include enough benefits and lacks the funding to help state and local governments cope with decreased tax revenue.

Democrats also oppose a lawsuit liability shield included In the Senate GOP bill, but it’s not likely that provision can be stripped out without risking complete opposition from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. McConnell controls the Senate floor and said repeatedly that he won’t pass a coronavirus bill unless it includes the liability shield for businesses, schools, and healthcare facilities.

No GOP lawmakers were included In the discussions Saturday.