White House, Congress face tough week of coronavirus aid talks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congress Democrats and Trump administration officials were under increasing pressure on Monday to reach agreement on coronavirus support legislation after missing an important deadline to extend aid to tens of millions of unemployed Americans.

FILE PHOTO: United States President Donald Trump delivers a speech on the state of the Union at a joint U.S. Congress meeting in the U.S. Capitol house chamber in Washington, U.S., on February 4, 2020. REUTERS / Joshua Roberts

Top Democrats in Congress and top representatives from President Donald Trump should meet at the U.S. Capitol to resume talks to overcome the impasse after reporting progress over the weekend. However, the two sides remained far apart and the leading Republican legislators were on the brink of negotiations.

Extending weekly unemployment benefits by $ 600 a week has proven to be a major obstacle to the talks, and a senior official from the US Federal Reserve warned that failure to obtain an extension would result in a weaker economy.

The Democrats maintain their call for Congress to renew Friday's benefits – a lifeline for the millions of Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic – and continue to push about $ 1 trillion for state and local governments.

The White House and Republicans on Capitol Hill want to cut weekly unemployment benefits and have rejected the state and local aid package that was included in the laws passed by the Democratically House of Representatives in May as too costly.

Republicans who advocate a reduction in unemployment benefits have said this is an obstacle for people to work.

Robert Kaplan, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, said Monday that economic data does not show that the $ 600 weekly benefit affects the entire job market.

"While it may have been difficult for certain individual companies to hire new employees, it has helped create jobs as it has increased consumer spending, so the net economic impact on employment is likely still positive," Kaplan told Bloomberg TV.

House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, the country's best-elected democrat, on Sunday accused the White House and Trump's Republicans on Capitol Hill of thinking too small to face a health crisis that hit more than 150,000 People have died in the country and tens of millions of people are left with work.

"We have a strategic plan to fight the virus: testing, tracking, treating, isolating, masks, hygiene and the rest," she said to ABCs "This Week".

"We have to defeat this virus," said Pelosi. "And that is one of the points we have not yet agreed on."

Mark Meadows, chief of staff of the White House, said on Sunday that he was not optimistic that an agreement on comprehensive legislation could be reached quickly, and again urged the Democrats to sign a weeklong unemployment benefit solution to allow time for further talks win.

"We continue to see a stone wall of all kinds of legislation that is taking place on Capitol Hill," he told CBS "Face the Nation." "Hopefully that will change in the coming days."

Pelosi said on Friday that she thought Congress and the White House would come together at some point in terms of legislation, even though she didn't have a schedule.

There are some areas where lawmakers and the Trump administration can potentially come together quickly.

Both Republicans and Democrats want to renew a moratorium on eviction that saved the Americans the stress of becoming homeless due to the unemployment pandemic. The moratorium expired on July 24.

There is also broad support for another round of direct payments to taxpayers.

Tensions are particularly high as there are fewer than 100 days before the November 3 elections when each seat in the House of Representatives, 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate and the White House are to be allocated.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Richard Cowan and Ann Saphir; Written by David Morgan, Tim Ahmann and Patricia Zengerle; Edited by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis

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