WASHINGTON – The discussions over another stimulus package turned testy Friday as Democrats and Republicans each blamed the other for their inability to come to an agreement just hours before a $600 weekly unemployment benefit for Americans officially ends.
In dueling press conferences, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows laid into Democrats for rejecting a short-term deal to continue the bolstered unemployment benefit for one week, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi railed against Republicans and the Trump administration for attempting to take a piecemeal approach to helping Americans as COVID-19 cases continue to surge nationally.
"What we're seeing is politics as usual from Democrats up on Capitol Hill," Meadows said from the White House podium. "The Democrats believe that they have all the cards on their side, and they're willing to play those cards at the expense of those that are hurting."
Pelosi, D-Calif., criticized Republicans for waiting months before attempting to take up another emergency package, noting the surge of coronavirus cases and high unemployment rate.
"They do not understand the gravity of the situation," she said of Republicans. "We don’t have shared values. That’s just the way it is."
She argued a deal to extend the unemployment benefit by one week would only be meaningful if a larger bill was nearly worked out, noting the time it would take for the measure to pass and for money to reach families. Pelosi also said the Senate, which has remained divided on unemployment, likely would not have the votes to approve a continuation of the $600 benefit.
Though the back-and-forth attacks signal a deal doesn't appear imminent, both Meadows and Pelosi said they plan to meet again to continue talks.
Friday's news conferences cap off a week filled with negotiations over another stimulus bill, talks that have all but stalled as Republicans remain divided over what should be included in the measure and Democrats remain against a smaller bill to keep unemployment flowing for a short period.
As part of their $3 trillion plan, congressional Democrats had been pushing for extending a $600 boost in weekly unemployment compensation until at least January. But Democrats have balked at taking up unemployment assistance as a separate measure, arguing that Republicans should come to the table for a larger deal on a host of pressing policy items, including more funds for local and state governments. House Democrats passed their $3 trillion bill in May that included the unemployment extension, another round of $1,200 stimulus checks and increased funds for state and local governments.
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have had trouble negotiating their demands as the conference remains divided on what the next stimulus package should include. Some even expressed doubt that another bill is needed. The divisions remained even after Republicans unveiled their own proposal Monday with funds for schools and small business but that scaled back the bolstered unemployment benefits to $200 per week.
Many Republicans have spent weeks railing against the $600 unemployment benefit, which is paid to Americans in addition to state claims. They claim it should be changed or replaced with a back-to-work incentive in hopes of jump-starting the economy and getting shuttered businesses to rehire laid-off workers.