The Senate adjourned on Thursday evening without Republicans and Democrats reaching a deal on a next stimulus package meaning the extra $600 in unemployment benefits will expire after Friday as Congress struggles to find common ground on key issues.
On Friday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) hinted at disagreements on the future of the extra unemployment benefits and whether liability protections should be included in the bill.
“Republicans in the Senate came back with a piecemeal approach. Clearly, they and perhaps the White House do not understand the gravity of the situation.” Pelosi said at a news conference. “This is a freight train that is picking up steam.”
Republicans put forward two proposals on the future of unemployment benefits this week, and Democrats rejected both of them. The first one was released by the GOP on Monday and suggested cutting the extra unemployment benefits to $200 a week through September and then transitioning to unemployment benefits that replace only 70% of wages.
“They resent America's working families, getting the $600, which is essential to their needs,” Pelosi said. “So they've offered $200.”
The second one, introduced by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and other GOP senators on Thursday, would allow states to choose between reducing the unemployment benefits to an 80% wage replacement rate or gradually reducing the extra benefits to $500 per week in August, $400 per week in September, or $300 per week in October.
“God bless him for having a proposal, I don't think he can pass that in the Senate either,” Pelosi said when asked about Romney’s proposal. “All of it is predicated on a lower benefit for America's working families at a time where the virus is accelerating.”
‘We have made no less than four different offers’
At the same time, at a press briefing, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) have rejected four offers to “protect” the additional weekly unemployment benefits as well as the moratorium on evictions.
“At the president’s direction, we have made no less than four different offers to Democrats,” Meadows said on Friday. “They’ve not even been countered with a proposal.”
Republicans and the White House, after waiting until this week to present their proposal to counter the HEROES Act passed by the Democrat-led House in May, called for a temporary extension of the $600 so that Americans don’t lose critical support amid the pandemic.
“First, we want a temporary extension of expanded unemployment benefits,” President Donald Trump said at a press briefing on Thursday. “This will provide a critical bridge for Americans who lost their jobs to the pandemic through no fault of their own.”
Pelosi and Schumer have been against the temporary extensions since it was first proposed.
“What are you going to do in a week?” Pelosi said on Friday. “The only accommodation that such a bill is, is if you're on the path and we're not.”
The HEROES Act would have extended extra UI benefits, among other stimulus measures, through the end of the year. The legislation, called a “socialist manifesto” by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), was never considered by the Senate.