The White House and some of its Republican allies in the Senate are signaling they want to extend, at least temporarily, a $600-per-week expanded jobless benefit that has helped keep families and the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move looks to be too little, too late to prevent the lapse of the benefit officially on Friday.
Republicans have been fighting to trim back the $600 jobless benefit in the next coronavirus package, but President Donald Trump and some Senate Republicans suggested they could accept keeping the full $600 benefit for now. Late-night talks were expected at the Capitol.
“We want a temporary extension of enhanced unemployment benefits,” Trump said at the White House. “This will provide a critical bridge for Americans who lost their jobs to the pandemic through no fault of their own.”
He added: “It has to be substantial.”
But Democrats have so far rejected a piecemeal approach, saying the next relief bill needs to move as a complete package. Before Trump spoke, top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell adjourned the chamber for the weekend while taking a procedural step that could allow voting on a potential compromise next week. Talks so far have yielded little progress.
“I’m not very optimistic that we will have any kind of an agreement on a comprehensive bill in the near future,” said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. He said he even doubted a deal could be struck next week.
Talks on the relief bill are at a standstill with few reasons for optimism despite sweeping agreement among Washington’s top power players that Congress must pass further relief in coming days and weeks.
Trump is eager for another round of relief, and it’s also a priority for GOP allies like McConnell, as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer. Democrats hold a strong negotiating hand, with Republicans badly divided over their own proposal.