McConnell calls for resuming relief talks

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, wears a protective mask upon his arrival at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, United States, Tuesday, August 11, 2020.Stefani Reynolds | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged Democrats and the White House to resume coronavirus relief talks on Tuesday as an aid standoff leaves millions scrambling to cover their bills.House of Commons Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows met last Friday, when their negotiations are to the point of death. The parties have not huddled since, even as the lifelines expired last month left many Americans with the prospect of financial ruin.

McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, did not join the talks but set a milestone last month when the GOP Senate released its pandemic aid bill. On Tuesday, he told Fox News that “the American people have had enough of the standoff” after another day passed without formal talks between the Democrats and the Trump administration.

“I think it’s time for everyone to come back to the table and make a deal,” he said.

Activity in Congress has all but ceased as the United States struggles to combat the economic and health crises created by the pandemic. As the country tries to curb ongoing outbreaks, it has reported more than 5.1 million cases of Covid-19 and at least 164,000 deaths from the disease.

The unemployment rate is over 10%, even after three months of strong job growth.

Congress did not pass an aid package last month before the expiration of the enhanced federal unemployment benefit of $ 600 per week and a moratorium on housing evictions backed by the U.S. government. Democrats and Republicans are far apart on what they want to spend on the pandemic.

They failed to make much headway in addressing issues like unemployment benefits, aid to state and local governments, money to reopen schools, and funding for the U.S. Postal Service during a year when Americans will vote by mail in record numbers.

After the failed legislative negotiations, President Donald Trump took constitutionally questionable executive action to expand some relief provisions. His orders would extend additional unemployment payments to a level of at least $ 300 a week, encourage eviction protections, continue student loan assistance during the pandemic, and create a payroll tax holiday.

But these movements could face legal challenges as Congress must authorize federal funding. States have also questioned the realistic nature of unemployment policy, as many states have outdated unemployment benefit systems and face budget cuts.

Democrats have proposed a relief plan worth more than $ 3 trillion, while Republicans have proposed legislation of around $ 1 trillion. Pelosi and Schumer said Mnuchin and Meadows rejected offers to meet in the middle of the prize.

Speaking in the Senate Tuesday, Schumer criticized Trump for issuing “a bunch of weak and unworkable executive orders” rather than joining the talks himself.

He also targeted multiple Republican senators who opposed any further relief from the coronavirus. He pointed the finger at Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who said: “I hope the talks will remain on hold.”

“They are happy that the negotiations have broken down. We’re not, ”Schumer said.

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