The White House chief of staff gave a clear indication to Congressional Democrats and Republicans that the White House might stop negotiating for the second $1,200 COVID-19 stimulus checks if an agreement is not reached by August 7.
By late afternoon on August 7, both sides indicated they were still at an impasse, and President Trump appears likely to issue executive orders to deal with some elements of the stimulus plan. However, the checks didn’t make his list of likely executive orders. Things like student loan relief, suspending rental evictions, and extending extra unemployment benefits did.
The president then held a press conference on the evening of August 7 and said his administration is “talking about” deferring student loan payments through the end of the year, deferring the payroll tax, suspending evictions and extending extra unemployment benefits, according to CBS News. Again, stimulus checks didn’t make that list.
CBS News reported that it’s unclear whether Trump has legal authority to use executive orders to do these things, especially unemployment benefit extension. He plans to issue the executive orders after lawyers vet them, probably by the end of the week.
The earlier comments came from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the lead up to August 7, which is the day the Senate typically goes into summer recess. The negotiations over a second stimulus relief package have been bottled up in disagreements over things like extending the extra $600 unemployment benefits, not the stimulus checks. Both sides have indicated they support a second round of checks, but that’s folded into the broader plan that they haven’t come to agreement on – yet.
“I think at this point we’re either going to get serious about negotiating and get an agreement in principle,” Meadows told reporters August 5 of a Friday, August 7 deal, according to ABC News. “I’ve become extremely doubtful that we’ll be able to make a deal if it goes well beyond Friday.”
Here’s what you need to know:
A Top Democrat Retorted That Democrats Won’t ‘Walk Away’
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer countered Meadows’ remarks, saying, according to ABC News, “We are not walking away. We will stay here as long as it takes to get an agreement and we urge Mr. Meadows to sit down and continue to work with us and to do it as long as it takes.”
ABC News reported that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was less fixated on an August 7 agreement date, but Meadows also stated, “My optimism continues to diminish the closer we get to Friday and certainly falls off the cliff exponentially after Friday.” However, the conversation on the GOP side then shifted to executive orders.
The debate has broken down largely over the $600 in unemployment benefits baked into the overall second relief package. Republicans are concerned the amount gives people an incentive not to work.
“There’s obviously a need to support workers, support the economy,” Mnuchin said, according to CNBC. “On the other hand, we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amounts of debt.”
According to Koin.com, President Donald Trump might use executive orders to address “evictions and jobless benefits,” but not stimulus checks, if an agreement is not reached.
As of August 6, Both Sides Were Still Talking About Large Impasses
How close are both sides to making a deal by August 7? On Thursday, August 6, they indicated not very, although obviously that could change fast.
“We’re very far apart. It’s most unfortunate,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, according to Koin.com.
“There’s a handful of very big issues that we are still very far apart” on, said Mnuchin, according to Koin, which said he also referenced disagreements over the amount of aid to local and state governments to deal with the pandemic.
If a deal is not reached, the Senate could either extend its summer recess or wait to pick things up in September when Congress normally reconvenes. That would extend the date when Americans could receive their checks even if the checks are approved, of course. Mnuchin has said the turnaround to get the stimulus checks in Americans’ hands would be quicker than it was the first time around.