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Stimulus talks falter as deadline nears
The top negotiators working to craft another coroanvirus stimulus package — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer — met for three hours on Thursday evening, their tenth session in recent days.
But they emerged barely closer to a deal, and both sides pointed at the other as the cause for the breakdown.
“We are very far apart. It’s most unfortunate, Pelosi told reporters. In an interview with CNBC, she added: “Perhaps you mistook [Republicans] for somebody who gives a damn.”
Meadows, meanwhile, blamed Democrats for rejecting his attempts to write a “skinny bill” that could satisfy some of the nation’s economic needs while not going so far as the comprehensive, $3.4 trillion plan they had proposed. “My frustration is that we could've passed a very skinny deal that dealt with some of the most pressing issues,” Meadows said. (Pelosi has shot down such a proposal.)
The two parties have yet to find consensus on the main provision that will be part of any agreement: an extension of the federal, $600-a-week job benefits that expired last Friday. Democrats have insisted on keeping the benefits at $600 until next year, while Republicans have proposed a $400-a-week benefits lasting until December, arguing that the program provides Americans with a disincentive to find work.
Other sticking points remain as well, particularly over aid to state and local governments. The House-passed Democratic stimulus plan would allocate $500 billion to states and $375 billion to local governments, while the Senate Republican proposal offers no direct aid to states and cities. “The president is not going to do a deal that has a massive amount of money to bail out state and local,” Mnuchin told reporters.
But as lawmakers and administration officials engage in brinksmanship, the economy continued to suffer.
According to figures released by the Labor Department this morning, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 10.2% in July while the economy added 1.8 million jobs — a loss of momentum in the nation’s recovery after gaining 4.8 million jobs in June. A separate Labor Department report released Thursday said that 1.2 million Americans filed for jobless benefits last week, a level well above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000.
This comes as the enhanced $600-a-week federal unemployment benefits expired, and as tens of millions of Americans face the threat of homelessness after a federal moratorium on evictions lapsed last week as well. Plus, the Paycheck Protection Program — which has poured $523 billion into the economy since April, saving many small businesses that otherwise may have shuttered amid the pandemic — is set to end on Saturday with no deal to extend it in sight.
Congress’ failure to strike a stimulus deal has far-reaching implications throughout the country. For example, as the New York Times reported, American educators “say their classrooms are becoming collateral damage in the protracted stalemate” in Washington, as struggling schools wait for Democrats and Republicans to strike an accord on new education funding.
And, of course, coronavirus itself is not getting better: “The virus is no longer principally an urban problem: It is present throughout every state, and those infected often don’t know it, leading to what top public health officials call ‘inherent community spread,’” according to the Washington Post.
So, what happens now? Mnuchin, Meadows, Pelosi, and Schumer had aimed to find some consensus on the stimulus package by today, although that deadline seems unlikely to be met.
Enter President Donald Trump, who has remained largely absent from the ongoing talks (despite running for president on his record as a “dealmaker”) and is currently vacationing hundreds of miles away in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Trump has threatened to act unilaterally if no deal is struck by today. According to Politico, he has executive orders lined up to “cut payroll taxes, provide eviction protections, boost unemployment benefits and assist borrowers with student loans.”
Each are likely to face legal challenges, especially his plan to “tap billions of dollars in states’ unspent coronavirus relief funds to revive federally enhanced unemployment benefits that expired last week,” per Politico.
Will congressional leaders be able to strike a compromise before then? The signs are not looking promising. According to the Washington Post, far from inking a trillions-dollar package to rescue the economy from the pandemic, Congress has been unable to find consensus on its own coronavirus safety measures.
“Congressional leaders can’t even agree on what type of thermometer to use to monitor lawmakers and aides for coronavirus symptoms,” the Post reported, a posture that does not bode well for their ability to craft a historic stimulus package in the coming hours.
President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are attacking each other for their recent statements on the campaign trail. Biden is facing backlash after comparing the Latino and Black communities, suggesting that the former is more diverse than the latter. (He has since clarified the remarks, although Trump has continued to cite them this morning in a series of tweets.) Trump, meanwhile, claimed Thursday that Biden is “against God”; a practicing Catholic, the Democrat responded by calling the attack “shameful” and “beneath the office he holds.”
A Trump-backed Republican candidate won the Senate primary in Tennessee on Thursday. Bill Hagerty, who served as Trump’s ambassador to Japan, triumphed over surgeon Manny Sethi, who had been backed by a constellation of prominent conservatives, in the bitter intraparty battle. On the Democratic side, environmental activist Marquita Bradshaw will face Hagerty in the fall after scoring a primary upset. Bradshaw’s victory over former Army helicopter pilot James Mackler — who outraised her, $2.1 million to $8,400 — is the first time a primary candidate endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has lost since 2010.
The Trump administration on Thursday announced new restrictions against two popular Chinese social media networks. The president signed a pair of executive orders, to take effect in 45 days, that cites national security concerns to prohibit any transactions between U.S. companies and WeChat or TikTok. In essence, the orders set a 45-day deadline for Microsoft to complete negotiations over its potential acquisition of TikTok before such a deal will be prohibited and the app could be banned in the United States.
- “Trump continues to flout social distancing guidelines even as he urges others to follow them” (Washington Post)
- “New York attorney general moves to dissolve the NRA after fraud investigation” (NPR)
- “Commission rejects Trump push to add debate against Biden” (Associated Press)
- “Trump advisers hesitated to give military options and warned adversaries over fears he might start a war” (CNN)
- “Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio tests positive, then negative, for coronavirus” (New York Times)
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have no public events scheduled.
The Senate is not in session.
The House will meet at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session.
The Supreme Court is on summer recess.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has no public events scheduled.
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