Pelosi convenes rare weekend talks on coronavirus relief

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Pelosi convenes rare weekend talks on coronavirus relief

“It was the best discussion we’ve had so far, and I’d call it progress but a ways to go,” Schumer said.

He said aides would be meeting Sunday to go over details and the principals would meet again Monday.

Saturday’s meeting took place a day after emergency enhanced unemployment benefits expired for some 30 million Americans. The White House has been pushing a short-term extension of some kind, which Democrats have rejected while pushing for a much more comprehensive response.

Heading into the meeting, Pelosi again shot down the idea of a short-term extension of the $600 weekly unemployment benefits Congress approved in March, which expired Friday. President Trump and Senate Republicans have been pushing a stop-gap fix, but Pelosi said: “There’s no short term. We’re not interested in doing short term.”

With the economic recovery stalled and more than 150,000 Americans dead, Democrats have been pushing for a comprehensive $3 trillion relief bill that would extend the $600 weekly benefit through January, among many other provisions.

Senate Republican leaders waited until last Monday to release a $1 trillion bill that was their response to the Democrats’ plan, but it immediately encountered resistance from within the Senate GOP conference. The White House quickly abandoned it and began pushing for a short-term fix for the unemployment benefits, perhaps packaged with a few other provisions.

“We’re just hopeful that they’re willing to really negotiate today, and if they are we’re prepared to make a deal on behalf of the American people,” Meadows said heading into the meeting with Mnuchin, who remarked “Just another working day at the Capitol.”

The Republicans have floated a few plans for extending the enhanced unemployment benefits — which come on top of whatever states already offer. Republicans say the $600 weekly payment is so generous it provides a disincentive for people to return to work. One approach that’s attracted GOP support would reduce the benefit to $200 weekly, or a formula that would replace around two-thirds of a worker’s wages before losing their job.

Democrats insist any such approach is insufficient for the need in the country and the fragile state of the economy, which could suffer overall from the evaporation of the benefits that have helped newly unemployed workers pay rent and buy groceries.

Pelosi, Schumer, Mnuchin and Meadows held four straight days of in-person meetings this past week with little sign of progress. On Friday, Meadows and Pelosi traded acrimonious accusations about who was to blame for the benefits expiring.

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