Sat, 26 Sep 2020

White House officials and top congressional Democrats plan to meet again Tuesday after both sides cited some progress in their effort to find agreement on a new coronavirus aid package.

"We have moved closer together on five or six issues. There are many more to go. And we're not even in agreement on those five or six, but at least they're understanding the needs here," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Tuesday.

Along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Schumer is set to meet with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

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 taking 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."

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