The White House appears keen to endorse a temporary extension of a $600 per week supplemental unemployment benefit as it is about to expire.
The idea is a prominent feature of top-level Washington talks on a major coronavirus relief measure.
After late-night talks failed to produce a breakthrough, the two sides took their case to the media on Friday morning, with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows appearing before reporters as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at her weekly news conference.
Meadows accused Democrats of refusing to negotiate, saying President Donald Trump has instructed him to be “aggressive and forward leaning” in trying to extend the supplemental jobless benefit.
“Democrats have made zero offers over the last three days,” according to Meadows. He said Democrats are “willing to play politics” and are acting like they “hold all the cards.”
The White House on Thursday offered a short-term extension of the $600 weekly unemployment benefit, but Democrats rejected it, saying it needs to be part of a far more sweeping bill that would deliver aid to state and local governments as well as to schools and colleges.
Without action, the unemployment benefit runs out Friday.
“Clearly they did not understand the gravity of the situation,” Pelosi said. She said a short-term extension only makes sense if the two sides are close to a deal.
“Why don’t we just get the job done?” she asked.
Republicans in the Senate had been fighting to trim back the $600 jobless benefit in the next coronavirus package, but Trump signaled he wants to keep the full $600 benefit for now.
“We want a temporary extension of enhanced unemployment benefits,” Trump said at the White House on Thursday.
“This will provide a critical bridge for Americans who lost their jobs to the pandemic through no fault of their own.”
The sides agreed to talk again Friday and into the weekend. There continues to be agreement among Washington’s top power players that Congress must pass further relief in the coming days and weeks.
“Do we want to continue to come to an agreement? Absolutely,” top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said. “But it’s got to meet the gravity of the problem.”
Trump is eager for another round of COVID relief, and it’s also a priority for GOP allies like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as for Pelosi and Schumer.