With talks on emergency coronavirus aid having stalled out, both sides played the blame game Thursday rather than make any serious moves to try to break their stalemate.
Watch Pelosi’s remarks in the player above.
Official Washington is emptying, national politics is consuming the airwaves and the chasm between the warring sides appears too great for now.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pressed the case for funding for the U.S. Postal Service, rental assistance, food aid and rapid testing for the virus at her weekly press event, blasting Republicans as not giving a damn and declaring flatly that “people will die” if the delay grinds into September.
“Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gave a damn,” Pelosi said when asked if she should accept a smaller COVID-19 rescue package rather than endure weeks of possible gridlock. “That isn’t the case.”
A modest Trump administration overture on Wednesday generated nothing but stepped-up carping and accusations of bad faith.
“It’s a stalemate,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Thursday.
Across a nearly empty Capitol, the Senate’s top Republican sought to cast the blame on Pelosi, whose ambitious demands have frustrated administration negotiators like White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Among the items lost is perhaps $10 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service to help improve service as its role in the fall election takes on greater importance, given an expected surge in mail voting because of the coronavirus pandemic.
President Donald Trump is against $3.4 billion demanded by Pelosi for helping states with the crush of mail-in ballots.
Trump seemed to take advantage of the stalemate to press his case against voting by mail.
He said Thursday on Fox Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria” that among the sticking points were Democrats’ demand for billions of dollars to assist states in protecting the election and to help postal workers process mail-in ballots.
The White House and congressional leaders are far apart on the size, scope and approach of aid for shoring up households, reopening schools and launching a national strategy to contain the virus, which has infected more than 5.2 million people in the United States and has killed at least 166,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Trump’s top negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, tried to revive stalled talks Wednesday, but Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer dismissed the “overture,” saying the Trump administration was still refusing to meet them halfway.
Congressional Republicans are largely sitting out the talks.
With the House and Senate essentially closed, and lawmakers on call to return with 24 hours’ notice, hopes for a swift compromise have dwindled. Instead, the politics of blame have taken hold, as the parties head into August focused on the presidential nominating conventions and lawmakers’ own reelection campaigns.
All indications are talks will not resume in full until Congress resumes in September, despite the mounting coronavirus death toll.
Also, at the press conference Pelosi was questioned about Sen. Kamala Harris being tapped this week to join Joe Biden on the Democratic presidential ticket. “Even if she were in a competition that was all men, she would have emerged because she is really the best person to be the vice president,” Pelosi said.