President Trump discusses economic relief as virus talks collapse
BEDMINSTER, New Jersey - Millions of American remain waiting to learn if they'll get federal aid, as negotiations between Congressional Democrats and the White House broke down Friday with no deal on a coronavirus relief bill and no executive orders from President Trump.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have been negotiating for Democrats who already passed a bill in the House months ago. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have been leading negotiations for Republicans.
At a news conference Friday evening, President Trump said a deal was still possible for another coronavirus relief bill.
"My administration continues to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement with Democrats in Congress that will extend unemployment benefits, provide protections against evictions," said President Trump.
Minutes later, though, the President blamed Democrats for the stalled talks, saying they were promoting "radical" policies and he said he's prepared to sign executive orders for a payroll tax cut, an extension of extra unemployment benefits and an eviction moratorium through the end of the year.
"It could be by the end of the week. They're being drawn by the lawyers right now," said President Trump.
Democrats say Republicans and White House negotiators are the ones dragging their feet.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to Democrats with an update on the negotiations and the biggest differences:
* Regarding federal assistance for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, Republicans say they're willing to allocate $15 billion compared to Democrats' $75 billion.
* On federal aid to state and local governments, Republicans want $150 billion, while Democrats favor $915 billion. Democrats say the aid is needed due to lost revenues and added coronavirus costs. Republicans say the money is not needed and accuse Democrats of trying to bolster budgets that were failing before the virus.
* Overall, Republicans are willing to spend about one trillion dollars on federal relief funding, while the House Democrats' Heroes Act relief bill that passed months ago allocates three trillion dollars.
On Friday, Speaker Pelosi said she offered a compromise at two trillion dollars.
"And if we take down a trillion and they add a trillion, we'll be within range," said Speaker Pelosi.
"That's a non-starter," said Steven Mnuchin, the U.S. Treasury Secretary.
"I don't know that that's a reduction, as much as she just changing the time frames," said White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
The fact that the White House is negotiating with Democrats instead of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is a reflection of the division within the Republican party over what should be funded, according to Eric Schickler, Co-Director of the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.
"What McConnell realizes is that there's no bill he can propose that can get enough Democratic votes which he needs to get to sixty and hold on to enough of his own party members unless President Trump is strongly behind it. So that's why he's saying White House you negotiate this," said Schickler.
Professor Schickler says President Trump's willingness to take unilateral action and sign executive orders also reflects a need to take action during an election year.
"Ironically, the Democratic bill would probably be the best thing for Trump's re-election chances, in that it would put a lot of money in the economy," said Schickler.
Many Americans say they want action from Washington on items such as extending the $600 extra aid on unemployment and other relief measures.
"Single moms who are having a hard time, they have bills to pay and children to feed so I think they should definitely keep the $600," said Denny Rodriguez, who spoke to KTVU in Alameda.
"It should have gotten passed. Bottom line, people need assistance, they need money to pay rent and it's not fair that we are not able to do that because of this terrible disease," said Joiya Mitchell who was walking in Alameda, "So it's very unfortunate."
President Trump did not give exact details on when talks would resume or the content of any executive orders.
Professor Schickler says Congress usually holds the power of the purse, so it is not entirely clear whether the orders would be within his presidential authority.