Top White House Officials and congressional Democrats will attempt to arrive at a compromise on the legislation that could enable the Congress to come to the rescue of Americans struggling due to the economic fallout brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Steven Mnuchin, United States Secretary of the Treasury, told reporters on Wednesday, "We're trying to get a deal that's good for the American public and American workers. Our objective is to try to reach an understanding of the major issues by Friday. If we can't reach an agreement on the major issues, it's going to be hard to complete a deal."
Trillions of Dollars Apart on Major Concerns
As talks neared the end of their second week, the four principal negotiators appeared to be near agreement on some topics, but still trillions of dollars apart on major issues including the size of a federal benefit for tens of millions of unemployed workers.
Mnuchin was due to join fellow Republican Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and the two top congressional Democrats, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, for talks on Capitol Hill.
Others not in the negotiation room considered their own actions, as Republican senators said they had been told that no deal by Friday would mean no deal at all. President Donald Trump stood ready to use executive orders to address issues such as unemployment benefits and protections against evictions if talks failed, according to Meadows.
Calls for A Comprehensive Assistance Package
Republican Senator Marco Rubio told reporters that the Senate on Thursday could also take up a new version of the Payroll Protection Program that provides financial assistance to small businesses in the form of forgivable loans.
Congress passed more than $3 trillion in relief legislation early in the pandemic. But lawmakers missed a deadline last week to extend the $600 per week in enhanced unemployment payments that played a key role in propping up the economy.
Pelosi and Schumer have pushed for a comprehensive package of assistance for the unemployed, the poor, hospitals, schools and state and local governments. "The leader and I are determined that we will come to an agreement. But it has to meet the needs of the American people," Pelosi said.
Mnuchin has warned that the Trump administration would not accept "anything close" to the $3.4 trillion in new aid sought by Democrats. Senate Republicans have proposed a $1 trillion package that many of their own members have rejected.
(With inputs from agencies)