Following a weekend of discussions, the four main players in the latest round of coronavirus relief negotiations – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin – met again this afternoon in the Capitol. Despite meeting for two hours, it does not appear significant progress towards a deal has been made, though Pelosi described the meeting as “productive.”
With the expiration of the expanded federal unemployment benefits at the end of July, it was thought that the parties may agree to a short-term extension but that has not been the case thus far. Democrats are now firmly entrenched and united in their position that they will not accept anything less than the $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefit. While Pelosi stated the Democrats’ position in clear terms on CNN this morning, Republicans have multiple competing proposals on the table to address unemployment insurance. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell advanced a shell vehicle to potentially force votes on various short-term unemployment insurance bills. Though none are likely to advance, they may force some Democrats into difficult votes that will be used against them in re-election campaigns.
After leaving the meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, Meadows and Mnuchin were seen entering McConnell’s office. McConnell’s absence from the negotiating table to this point is likely the strongest indication thus far that the two sides remain far apart on a potential deal. In fact, just this afternoon McConnell slammed Schumer’s attempt to include a repeal of the cap on state and local tax deductions in the next relief bill. The veteran Senate Majority Leader’s movements will be watched closely in the coming days and weeks, as any deal is unlikely to be reached until McConnell takes a more active role in the negotiations.