Negotiations to break the stimulus stalemate end with no compromise in sight

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Negotiations to break the stimulus stalemate end with no compromise in sight

Top Democrats and the White House clashed anew on Thursday over an economic recovery package as a jobs report loomed over stalled negotiations on the plan, raising the stakes of the talks even as a compromise appeared to be nowhere in sight.

After more than three hours in the Capitol Hill offices of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, negotiators emerged without an agreement and said stark divisions remained. Ms. Pelosi, of California, described a “consequential meeting” where “we could see the difference in values that we bring to the table.”

Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, offered equally pessimistic remarks after meeting with Ms. Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader. “We’re still a considerable amount apart,” Mr. Meadows told reporters.

“If the basis is getting an overall deal done, there would have to be significant compromises on some big issues tomorrow,” Mr. Mnuchin said, adding that he expected the negotiators to speak by phone the next day to “see if it makes sense to meet.”

The Labor Department will report Friday morning on how many jobs the economy created in July, as America climbs back from the depths of the pandemic recession. Forecasters expect fewer new jobs than in May, when the nascent recovery added 2.7 million jobs, or June, when it added 4.8 million. That’s because the resurgence of the coronavirus has cooled growth in consumer spending and business activity for much of this summer.

The economy remains down more than 10 million jobs from its pre-pandemic peak in February. If Friday’s report shows a drastic slowdown in job creation, pressure will rise on Mr. Trump and congressional leaders to cut a deal to provide additional aid for struggling small businesses, laid-off workers and state and local governments that face large shortfalls in tax revenue amid the crisis. New claims for unemployment benefits have exceeded 1 million a week for 20 straight weeks, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.

A better-than-expected report on Friday could sway Mr. Trump — who has said repeatedly that the economy would rapidly return to its pre-crisis state — against agreeing to Democrats’ demands on issues like extending the now-expired $600-a-week federal supplement for unemployed workers.

Mr. Trump escalated his threat on Thursday to walk away from the negotiations and act unilaterally instead. He told reporters he was considering issuing executive orders to forestall evictions, suspend payroll tax collection and provide extra unemployment aid and student loan relief, perhaps as soon as Friday or Saturday.

It is not clear that he has the legal authority for some of those moves, given that spending power lies with Congress. But a White House official said lawyers there believe Mr. Trump would be on solid ground to use money provided in the last stimulus measure but not yet spent. Democrats rejected the idea, calling it illegal and insufficient.

“Congress has the power of the purse, and President Trump has no authority to deviate from spending decisions the House and Senate made in previous coronavirus relief bills,” said Evan Hollander, a spokesman for the Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee.

Also on Thursday, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Republicans against Ms. Pelosi that sought to block the House of Representatives from using a proxy voting system to allow for remote legislating during the pandemic.

Judge Rudolph Contreras, of the Washington, D.C., District Court, wrote in his opinion that “the House unquestionably has the authority, under the Constitution, to ‘determine the rules of its proceedings,’” and affirmed that legislative work undertaken by Ms. Pelosi and other top Democrats was “immune from suit under the speech or debate clause” of the Constitution.

Published on: Aug 07, 2020 13:52:31

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