White House officials and top congressional Democrats plan to meet again Wednesday as they aim to agree on a new coronavirus aid package by the end of the week.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said after 90 minutes of negotiations Tuesday that the goal was to finalize the proposal in the coming days in order to allow for a vote in Congress next week.
Wednesday will be the third straight day of talks between Mnuchin, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
“We really went down issue by issue by issue, slogging through,” Schumer said after Tuesday’s session. “They made some concessions, which we appreciated. We made some concessions, which they appreciated. We are still far away on a lot of the important issues, but we’re continuing to go at it.”
Meadows called the Tuesday meeting “probably the most productive meeting we've had to date."
The two sides have been divided by the size of their proposed aid packages, with Democrats calling for $3.4 trillion in new spending and Republicans wanting to limit it to $1 trillion.
Among the items under discussion are sending out another round of stimulus payments, helping renters avoid eviction, aiding the Postal Service and action to address $600-per-week federal unemployment payments that expired last week.
Republican leaders have proposed passing a smaller aid package that addresses some items while leaving negotiations on others for later. Democrats have dismissed that approach, arguing instead that the federal government needs to take big action to confront the economic challenges facing the country.
The White House criticized Democrats for blocking passage of a short-term bill Friday that would have extended the unemployment benefits for seven days, giving congressional leaders more time to negotiate.
“That should tell you exactly where the Democrats stand,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a briefing Tuesday.
But Democrats are aware they have a better negotiating position since Senate Republican leadership needs their votes for passage.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged Tuesday he would not have full Republican support as he did in March when Congress quickly agreed on a massive aid package addressing the beginning of the crisis.
“If we're looking for a total consensus among Republican senators, you’re not going to find it," McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “So, we do have divisions about what to do. What we're hoping for here is a bipartisan proposal negotiated by the president of the United States and his team and the Democratic majority in the House to sign a bill into law that can appeal to a significant percentage of Republicans.”
Mnuchin signaled some flexibility Monday, telling reporters, "We're open to a bigger package if we can reach an agreement.”