Washington — As negotiations continue on the next coronavirus relief package, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress will remain in session until there is agreement on the measure and it is approved by lawmakers.
“We can’t go home without it,” Pelosi, a California Democrat, said on “Face the Nation” when asked whether the House would stay in session until a deal is negotiated. “It’s so sad that people should have this uncertainty in their lives.”
Transcript: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “Face the Nation”
Senate Republicans and the White House spent last week negotiating the terms of the fourth phase of the coronavirus response, which they expect to have a $1 trillion price tag. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with Senate staff this weekend to continue hammering out the details of the measure, and Mnuchin said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday the details are expected to be unveiled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday.
The most pressing issue for Congress is the expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits, which were implemented in an earlier coronavirus relief package and began to expire this weekend. Democrats are calling for the “phase four” coronavirus measure to maintain the $600 boost to unemployment benefits, but some Republicans argue it disincentives Americans to return to work as they make more with the beefed-up benefits than they do in wages.
Mnuchin said GOP lawmakers are looking to give jobless workers 70% of their prior wages instead, but Pelosi argued the proposed change would be difficult to implement, as not all who collect unemployment benefits are salaried workers.
“They’re resenting $600 for single moms to be able to put food on the table, for dads to maintain the dignity of keeping their families intact with unemployment insurance, with assistance for rent, for food?” Pelosi said.
The measure rolled out by Senate Republicans is expected to be the starting point for negotiations with their Democratic counterparts, and Pelosi said her caucus has been “anxious to negotiate” for more than two months. In May, the Democrat-led House passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief measure, but the legislation was a nonstarter for the White House and GOP-controlled Senate, which hit pause on talks.
Pelosi criticized Republicans for the delay, saying they are “in disarray, and that delay is causing suffering for American families.”
“For them to come now when we’re right on the brink, when people are hungry in our country, children, millions of children, are food insecure, many families who never thought they would go to a food bank are going to food banks, and we need more money for food stamps and emergency nutrition programs, and they’re resisting that,” she said.
While Republicans and Democrats agree the next aid package should include another round of direct payments to Americans and federal aid to schools, they disagree on other areas such as funding for state and local governments and liability protections for employers, a key provision for McConnell.
Pelosi condemned Republicans for wanting to protect businesses but not workers who fear contracting the coronavirus.
“What they’re saying to essential workers [is[ ‘you have to go to work because you’re essential. We’ve placed no responsibility on your employer to make that workplace safe, and if you get sick, you have no recourse because we’ve given your employer protection. And if you don’t go to work because you’re afraid of being sick and you have that job opportunity, you don’t get unemployment insurance,'” she said. “This is so unfair.”
Pelosi went on to knock Mr. Trump for his handling of the coronavirus crisis and said she has a nickname for the president: “Mr. Make Matters Worse.”
“He has made matters worse from the start,” she said.
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