Stimulus Checks: Negotiations in Danger of Collapse as Sides Remain ‘Very Far Apart’

Despite comments in recent days that Democrats and Republicans were "a little closer to a deal" on the next stimulus relief package, a three-hour meeting Thursday has led to new threats that negotiations are on the brink of collapse. Friday, Aug.7 has long been regarded as the self-imposed deadline for an agreement to be reached, though hope that such a deal could be reached all but faded as talks once again stalled.

After emerging from their 11th straight day of negotiations, during which time President Donald Trump, in three separate phone calls, urged them to reach a deal, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday signaled an agreement remained far off, according to CNN. Speaking with reporters, Pelosi admitted, "we are very far apart – it's most unfortunate," with Schumer adding that they "are very disappointed in the meeting... They were unwilling to meet in the middle." Mnuchin and Meadows echoed those remarks, stating that while there are "a lot of issues we are close to a compromise position on," there are also "a handful of very big issues that we are still very far apart."

One of the significant conflicts has to do with how large of a package the two sides are envisioning. Democrats are eyeing a more massive bill similar to the HEROES Act they had introduced in May, which had a price tag of over $3 trillion. Republicans, meanwhile, are far more conservative, wishing to keep the package at around $1 trillion. Democrats had argued that passing anything less than a large-scale package is a non-starter. According to Meadows, the White House has given a bit of room on the total, which is now "north" of the initial $1 trillion mark.

What should and should not be included in this next package has also proven controversial. While there is bipartisan support for the second round of stimulus checks, the two sides have remained steadfast on their ideas for provisions such as unemployment benefits, with Democrats wishing to renew the enhanced $600 weekly benefit. In contrast, Republicans want to reduce it to just $200 per week. Another critical issue is aid to state and local governments, with their proposal wishing to give 500 billion to states and $375 billion to local governments. Republicans, however, did not include additional funding for states or cities.

As the negotiations stalled, Mnuchin and Meadows were set to brief the president on the talks Thursday night and Friday morning. The president has threatened to take executive action if a deal is not met. On Thursday, Mnuchin signaled that the threat was a very real one, explaining, "if we conclude tomorrow that there is not a compromise position on the major issues, the President has alternatives and executive orders."