After days of meetings that seemed to yield little progress, Democratic and White House negotiators on Tuesday agreed that they’ll aim for a deal on the next stimulus bill by Friday, so Congress can vote on it next week (though Senators are currently scheduled to leave for their August recess on that same Friday), according to reporting from the Washington Post.
It looks like that deal would include agreement on supplemental federal unemployment benefits—that extra $600 check per week that has now expired—and eviction protections for certain renters, the Post said, two big concessions from the White House negotiating team.
Politico reports that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have offered a $400-per-week unemployment supplement (rather than the 70% wage replacement program previously floated by the GOP).
Republicans are prepared to concede on giving another $200 billion to state and local aid, according to Politico (though Democrats told Politico the GOP only offered $150 billion); the GOP originally wanted no new aid for states, and Democrats want another $1 trillion.
Another sign of progress: Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (who has been conspicuously absent from the negotiating table amid deep divisions within the GOP) said Tuesday that he is “prepared to support” a stimulus package that includes an extension of those $600 checks, if the White House supports it, too—that would be an even bigger concession for Republicans, who have thus far been unwilling to extend the benefits at such a level.
Democrats have made concessions, too, according to Politico: among them, they’re willing to reduce their request for more funding for the Postal Service.
There are still major hurdles remaining, however, which have been exacerbated by infighting among Republicans; those divisions are likely to give Democrats the edge at the negotiating table.
“We all have agreed that we need to have an agreement,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told PBS News Hour on Tuesday. That may not seem like much, but it’s a significant step after months with no negotiations this summer and days of deadlock after lawmakers returned to Washington several weeks ago.
With Covid-19 cases on the rise and several key benefits of the CARES Act already expired, Congress is under tremendous pressure to get a new relief bill out the door quickly. House Democrats passed their proposal—the $3 trillion Heroes Act—back in May, but deeply divided Republicans didn’t float their plan—the piecemeal HEALS Act—until late July. President Trump had floated the possibility of using executive powers to go around Congress on the most pressing issues, though he said he “may not” have to resort to executive orders if a deal comes this week. It’s not clear, however, that Trump actually has the power to do that.