WASHINGTON — Top Trump administration officials and lawmakers cautioned on Sunday that a deal over a new relief package to help people and businesses weather the coronavirus crisis remained elusive even as the debate over the details of the aid was set to take center stage in the coming week.
A meeting on Saturday in the Capitol Hill suite of Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been the most productive discussion in recent days, officials said, but they remain divided on a number of issues, including how to revive lapsed unemployment benefits for tens of millions of Americans and how broad any deal should be.
“We still have a long ways to go,” Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, who is negotiating on behalf of the administration, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “I’m not optimistic that there will be a solution in the very near term.”
He continued to push for Democrats to agree to a stand-alone measure that would restore the weekly federal jobless benefits, which expired on Friday, as a way to continue providing relief.
But Ms. Pelosi, who is expected to again meet with administration officials on Monday, reiterated that she would reject a so-called skinny bill in favor of a sweeping package that includes a national health strategy to counter the spread of the virus and extend the full $600-a-week unemployment benefit.
She charged that Mr. Meadows and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, remained reluctant to commit to a strategic health plan or to address the needs of American families.
“We have to defeat the virus, and that’s one of the contentious issues that we have to deal with yet,” Ms. Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“We will be close to an agreement when we have an agreement,” she added.
Lawmakers have already approved spending nearly $3 trillion to address the public health crisis and economic collapse caused by the pandemic, but the two parties remain bitterly divided over the scope and cost of another relief package. Democrats, who remain publicly united behind the $3 trillion stimulus measure the House approved in May, contend that another significant infusion of cash is necessary.
But at least 20 Senate Republicans are unlikely to support any additional spending, party leaders have acknowledged, in part because of concerns over the level of spending and its effect on the national debt. Under a $1 trillion plan Republicans unveiled on Monday — a narrower proposal than the Democrats’ plan — a number of provisions, including the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit, would be severely curtailed.
“We have to balance — there’s obviously a need to support workers, to support the economy, people who through no fault of their own are shut down because of this terrible disease,” Mr. Mnuchin said on ABC’s “This Week,” responding to criticism that Republicans took too long to introduce a proposal. “On the other hand, we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amounts of debt for future generations.”
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated July 27, 2020
Should I refinance my mortgage?
- It could be a good idea, because mortgage rates have never been lower. Refinancing requests have pushed mortgage applications to some of the highest levels since 2008, so be prepared to get in line. But defaults are also up, so if you’re thinking about buying a home, be aware that some lenders have tightened their standards.
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
Is the coronavirus airborne?
- The coronavirus can stay aloft for hours in tiny droplets in stagnant air, infecting people as they inhale, mounting scientific evidence suggests. This risk is highest in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation, and may help explain super-spreading events reported in meatpacking plants, churches and restaurants. It’s unclear how often the virus is spread via these tiny droplets, or aerosols, compared with larger droplets that are expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces, said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech. Aerosols are released even when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings, according to Dr. Marr and more than 200 other experts, who have outlined the evidence in an open letter to the World Health Organization.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
- So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.
“The president is determined to spend what we need to spend,” he added, though he criticized Democrats for pushing for close to $1 trillion in new aid to state and local governments. “We’re moving very quickly now.”
Ms. Pelosi reiterated on Sunday that her caucus would not accept such a measure, though she indicated Democrats would be open to an approach that tied the unemployment benefit to the unemployment rate, lowering the size of the benefit as the number of people returning to the work force begins to grow.
The Senate is scheduled to leave for a monthlong recess by the end of the week, but it is unclear whether lawmakers will be able to reach a deal by then.
“We’re going to work every day until we reach a reasonable agreement that’s good for the American public,” Mr. Mnuchin said.