Unemployment benefits for millions of American expired last week and Congress and the White House are still struggling to come to an agreement on the next coronavirus relief package.
After another day of negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff that while they’re making some progress, Republicans and Democrats have different points of view on key issues.
“We’re far apart in terms of our values,” Pelosi said.
With the pressure building to get to an agreement, Pelosi accused the White House of not accepting “the gravity of the situation,” but did indicate that the plan is to have a deal by the end of this week with legislation passed next week.
Highlighting the Democratic priorities — money for state and local governments, funding for testing and tracing, a strong OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) law to protect workers, extra money for SNAP, the postal service and unemployment benefits — Pelosi said “let’s find out what we can afford, what is a figure that we can agree to…so that we can get it out there.”
But what a solution looks like is hard to picture at this point in the negotiations.
Other highlights from the interview:
Pelosi is not in favor of a “piecemeal” solution, knocking Republicans and the White House for proposing a short-term fix to the issue. “Are we determined to find an agreement? Yes. We will find our common ground. But we don’t — we won’t find it on the slim reed of a piecemeal bill that doesn’t — that says to our workers, ‘you used to get $600, you’re now going to get $200, because the virus has intensified in its spread,’” she said.
Pelosi is also against a compromise figure on unemployment insurance checks. Republicans have been proposing cutting the $600 weekly unemployment checks to $200, which would later transition to total unemployment benefits totaling no more than 70 percent of a person’s prior income. But Pelosi has rejected a change in that number, saying there is “no inbetween” on unemployment insurance.
On the subject of food assistance to Americans, Democrats are proposing $67 billion, of which Pelosi said $60 billion would go to food assistance for families. Republicans have proposed far less, but argued that sending children back to school would help with food assistance, with a heavy reliance on school meals providing for families dealing with food insecurity. Pelosi said that both need to be done.
Money for state and local governments has long been a divisive issue for Republicans and Democrats, since the early coronavirus relief packages. Pelosi and Democrats are proposing $915 billion for state and local governments, but Republicans are rejecting any additional money outside of school funding, instead proposing more flexibility for the use of previously allocated money to states.