Sources close to the lawmakers that are trying to negotiate a new stimulus check this week gave a dire warning on Tuesday morning: the two sides are "nowhere near a deal." The insider spoke to CNN after Monday night's update that the talks had been "productive" throughout the day. The anonymous sources said that this was an exaggeration, and that the two political parties and two legislatures are still at a stalemate.
So far, Democratic leaders have held six closed-door meetings with White House officials in just over a week, totaling about 10 hours of discussion about the next stimulus bill, the HEALS Act. On Monday, the two sides agreed that the day was productive in that it had helped them both better understand the root of their disagreements. Still, the sources that spoke to CNN said that this did not change the fact that they strongly disagreed on key points of the stimulus package. They added that Americans reading between the lines could likely see that this was slow and arduous progress at best.
On Tuesday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin returned to Capitol Hill with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows for more meetings with Senators and Congressional Representatives About the HEALS Act. Senate Republicans met for a closed-door lunch meeting, followed by a news conference with nothing groundbreaking to report.
So far, the biggest disagreement over the HEALS Act seems to have been the emergency unemployment enhancements. The CARES Act created a $600 per week payment added to unemployment checks to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but that expired on July 31. Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have said that they will not accept anything less than an extension of the $600 per week payment. As it is currently written, the HEALS Act would cut those payments to $200 per week until October, while trying to create a new payment structure based on lost income. That would have a $500 per week cap.
However, other provisions are feeding into the division as well, particularly funding for schools to re-open safely in the fall. Republicans have reportedly offered a maximum of $105 billion for public schools and colleges to pay for coronavirus safety measures.
The most encouraging word from CNN's sources is that Pelosi believes that the White House negotiators are bluffing, and that ultimately they will have to meet some of Democrats' demands. She told her staff that the Republicans will likely agree to approve new funding for state and local governments' coronavirus response.
In the meantime, the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths are still rising, and about 20 percent of Americans workers are unemployed. Public health experts still say that social distancing as much as possible is the best way to reduce the outbreak, so any government program that can facilitate that — financially or otherwise — will be a step in the right direction.