WASHINGTON ― Senators left town Thursday with nothing to show for days of negotiations between Democrats and Trump administration officials on another round of coronavirus pandemic relief.
“We might not get a deal,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters on Thursday. “We’re at an impasse right now.”
The Senate is technically still in session and members have been told to be ready to return to the Capitol next week, when they were supposed to begin their August recess, in case there’s a breakthrough. But at this point, both sides are extremely pessimistic about a deal happening.
“I have said we see a light at the end of the tunnel, we just don’t know how long the tunnel is,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday. “The light at the end of the tunnel may be the freight train of the virus coming at us if we do not contain it.”
The most pressing disagreement concerns a $600 weekly boost to unemployment insurance, which expired last month amid Republican complaints that jobless workers shouldn’t have so much money. The lapse cut benefits by 50% to 85% for more than 25 million people, with major implications for the broader economy.
Democrats made clear they are holding firm in their demands to continue the benefits as part of a larger relief package, calling renewed Republican objections to more spending amid a historic pandemic cruel and heartless. The two sides remain “trillions” of dollars apart in their proposals, according to the White House.
Republicans, for their part, accused Democrats of being the ones holding hostage aid to millions of struggling Americans in order to exact political victories in November’s elections, even though Republicans criticized the benefits for four months and made no effort to replace them before they lapsed.
“As long as they calculate that they’re better off politically doing nothing, it’s going to be hard for us to move forward,”...