Stimulus Impasse Likely To Drag Into September

The ongoing impasse over the next COVID-19 relief is likely to drag into September, as lawmakers have mostly fled to their home states, the next jobs report is weeks away, and the spotlight has shifted to the upcoming GOP and Democratic conventions, according to The Hill.

As it stands, Democrats have offered to drop $1 trillion off their $3.5 trillion proposed package if Republicans will add roughly the same to their $1.1 trillion plan. The White House, however, is insisting on keeping the final price tag closer to $1 trillion according to Secretary Treasury Steven Mnuchin in a recent interview with Fox Business.

"Democrats have no interest in negotiating," said Mnuchin. "If the Democrats are willing to be reasonable, there’s a compromise. If the Democrats are focused on politics and don’t want to do anything that’s going to succeed for the president, there won’t be a deal."

And while President Trump upstaged Congress on Saturday with a series of Executive Orders, including extending a federal stimulus boost by $400 per week as well as a moratorium on evictions, businesses (and if Democrats get their way, states and cities), will be cut off from federal assistance for weeks.

When asked about whether a deal would be delayed until September, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) replied "I hope not, no. People will die.:

Several GOP Senators echoed Pelosi's sentiment, but also blamed Democrats for causing the stalemate.

"I’m concerned we’re not getting a deal right now," aid Sen. John Boozman (R-AK), adding that while he says GOP negotiators want a deal, "you've got to have a willing partner."

"Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said he hopes that talks don't drag into September, adding "We'll see," according to The Hill.

While technically not on August recess yet, the Senate is running on a skeleton crew. 

Only a handful of senators have been spotted around the chamber during daily sessions that last less than two hours. The Senate could leave after Thursday, though Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been tight-lipped about his plans. Meanwhile, the House is extending its August break, moving their return date from Sept. 7 to Sept. 14

McConnell, during an interview this week with Fox News, argued that it was time to restart the negotiations, saying “it doesn't make any difference who says let's get together again, but we ought to get together again.” -The Hill

By all outward appearances, there's nothing indicating the impasse will be broken anytime soon.

On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke with Pelosi via telephone, which only resulted in a joint statement between the Speaker and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) accusing the White House of "not budging," according to the report.

"We have again made clear to the Administration that we are willing to resume negotiations once they start to take this process seriously. The lives and livelihoods of the American people as well as the life of our democracy are at stake," read the statement.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have yet to agree on the level of weekly unemployment benefits once Trump's executive order runs out. At present, $300 of the $400 per week will come from the federal government, while states will be expected to pay the remaining 25%.

Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, the other lead negotiator for the administration, have held daily calls with Senate Republicans this week but given them little indication they see a quick breakthrough in the works. 

I think I can say the call wasn’t very long. ... Basically, not much new movement,” Blunt said. -The Hill

When asked about the negotiations, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said the two sides were "pessimistic about getting back into negotiations."