Senate Adjourns For Month Amid Stalled Coronavirus Stimulus Talks

Senate Adjourns For Month Amid Stalled Coronavirus Stimulus Talks

KEY POINTS

  • Talks between the White Hosue and top Democrats have stalled
  • Larry Kudlow said Republicans are unwilling to up the price tag on the next round of relief to $2 trillion
  • Nancy Pelosi says it's apparent White House negotiators don't give "a damn"

Hopes for a fifth coronavirus relief package evaporated Thursday as the Senate left the Capitol until after Labor Day, leaving millions of Americans in the lurch in the pandemic-ravaged economy.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., kept the chamber in session this week, technically the first week of the August recess. The House left town earlier, not expected to return before Sept. 14 – less than two months before the Nov. 3 general election.

McConnell said there’s little likelihood of any business taking place before mid-September. Any resumption of business would require bipartisan consent, but he noted the body could return on 24 hours notice.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have urged negotiators to make a deal, but Republican enthusiasm has waned with slight improvements in unemployment, despite mounting bankruptcies.


Democratic leaders had been negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on a new round of relief that would have included direct payments to taxpayers, but the two sides were unable to bridge the price tag: Democrats support more than $3 trillion in aid while the Republicans want a slimmer package in the $1 trillion range.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., complained Republicans were unwilling to meet Democrats halfway.

Among the sticking points was the size of a weekly boost to unemployment benefits. President Trump tried to mitigate the damage by issuing an executive order during the weekend that would cut the $600 a week supplemental assistance, which expired at the end of last month, to $400, but it requires cash-strapped states to kick in 25% of that, a likely insurmountable hurdle. Also at issue is the amount of aid to state and local governments that have borne the brunt of costs for the pandemic.

No talks have taken place since last Friday.

“We are miles apart in our values,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Thursday. “Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gave a damn. That isn't the case. This is very far apart.”

Pelosi said talks aren’t likely to restart until the White House ups its offer to $2 trillion.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters that wasn’t going to happen.

“There are too many things, too many asks on their side that don't fit, don't have anything to do with COVID, for that matter,” he told reporters.

“It remains quite stunning that Congress has yet to agree on a fresh round of relief legislation with so many Americans hurting financially,” Mark Hamrick, chief economic analyst for Bankrate.com, told International Business Times in an email. “Even after the president’s controversial and narrowly focused executive orders, the nation’s governors and business interests alike have urged all sides to redouble their efforts to pass meaningful and much needed legislation.”

Diane Swonk, chief economist for Grant Thornton, called the decision for the Senate to adjourn "tragic."