Washington: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday assailed Republican disarray over a new pandemic relief package as the White House suggested a narrower effort might be necessary, at least for now.
The California Democrat panned the Trump administration’s desire to trim an expiring temporary federal unemployment benefit from 600 weekly to about 70% of pre-pandemic wages.
The reason we had 600 was its simplicity, she said from the Capitol.
The administration’s chief negotiators White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were returning to the Capitol later Sunday to put what Meadows described as final touches on a 1 trillion relief bill Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is likely to bring forward Monday.
Both Mnuchin and Meadows said narrower legislation might need to be passed first to ensure that enhanced unemployment benefits don’t run out for millions of Americans.
They cited unemployment benefits, money to help schools reopen, tax credits to keep people from losing their jobs, and lawsuit protections for schools and businesses as priorities.
Pelosi has said she opposes approving a relief package in piecemeal fashion.
We can move very quickly with the Democrats on these issues, Mnuchin said.
We’ve moved quickly before. If there are issues that take longer, we’ll deal with those as well.
Separately, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said a federal eviction moratorium on millions of rental units, due to expire at the end of the month, will be extended. We will lengthen it,” he said, without specifying for how long.
Republicans have argued that federal benefits should be trimmed because the combination of state and federal unemployment assistance left many people better off financially than they were before the pandemic and therefore disinclined to return to their jobs.
Many Democrats contend that a lot of people don’t feel safe going back to work when the coronavirus is surging again around the country.
A former Republican congressman from North Carolina, Meadows said he is working with Mnuchin and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia to address complaints that outdated state computer systems will make it difficult for the jobless to get their benefits in a timely fashion if the formula is changed.
It’s our goal to make sure that it’s not antiquated computers that keep people from getting their benefits, Meadows said.
Pelosi criticized the hold-up on the GOP side. House Democrats passed a 3 trillion relief package a couple of months ago, with the aim of jump-starting negotiations.
They’re in disarray and that delay is causing suffering for America’s families, Pelosi said.
She declined to say whether she could accept 70% of wages in place of the now-expired 600 weekly benefit.