COVID-19 Stimulus Checks: What – or Who – Is to Blame for the Delay?

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Getty White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows (left) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (right)

The coronavirus pandemic has continued to rage on, infecting more people and taking America down the path of the once-unimaginable 200,000 deaths Dr. Fauci warned about back in March.

This is also taking a huge toll on the economy, which has seen thousands of businesses permanently shutter their doors and millions on unemployment; with Trump’s Lost Wages Assistance program excluding the poorest once-employed Americans (those receiving less than $100 from unemployment), many are hoping Democrats and Republicans can come to an agreement on stimulus checks.

However, both party leaders have failed to come to a consensus and have instead, resorted to blaming one another and accusing one of another of holding up the process. Based on reporting from The Hill, some aren’t expecting serious negotiations to resume until the government faces another shutdown.

Democrats Say Meadows Is Known for Blowing Deals Up

What was once a political negotiation has slowly devolved into a bitter, nasty, personal fight between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – in representing the Democrats – and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Pelosi has referred to Meadows as, “what’s-his-name” and described the Republicans’ proposal as “very deficient” and Meadows has called Pelosi’s requests, “a partisan wish list” not based on “real needs.” He more recently called Pelosi out for attending a salon appointment without a mask despite rules requiring salons to be closed; Pelosi has called the move a set-up.

When Meadows appeared at the White House on August 22 for an impromptu meeting with Pelosi, she declined to see him; a staff member cited scheduling conflicts and the fact that Meadows had not made an appointment, The Hill reported.

Democrats, such as Rep. Bill Foster, blame Meadows for the breakdown in communication, pointing out that negotiations were much more successful when they were held between Pelosi and Mnuchin. “I served with him for many years in the U.S. House and he was a thorn in the side of Paul Ryan and just everyone who tried to deal with him,” Foster said during an interview on MSNBC. “He refused to negotiate as a matter of ideological principle, so I’m not personally surprised that we were able to come up with a compromise when it was Pelosi and Mnuchin … but that we have failed when you add Mark Meadows to the mix.”

Fellow Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly agreed. “Closing deals is not Mark Meadows’s strong suit. His whole track record is: blow it up,” Connolly told The Hill. “If you ask yourself what’s the difference between April and May, when we did reach big, broad bipartisan consensus, and today, the variable is Mark Meadows.”

Meadows Says Pelosi Is Intentionally Stalling Negotiations

The Hill also reported that earlier, Meadows had said he doesn’t believe any meaningful negotiations will take place until September when he believes Pelosi will try to combine any stimulus package to a bill to avoid a government shutdown. The deadline for a bill to pass government this year is September 30, which means Americans could be waiting until the end of October or even November, to receive any checks if a deal is reached then, based on previous distribution wait-times.

Meadows more recently implied that Pelosi is a hypocrite. “This is typical Washington, D.C.,” Meadows told Fox News about Pelosi’s salon trip.

They get on national TV. They preach to the American people that it should be one way and, yet, in private, when the cameras are not rolling and in this case, I guess the cameras were rolling, it shows a very different story It’s the same thing whether it’s in San Francisco with her going into a salon or in the privacy of a negotiating room, it’s time that she get serious about helping the American people.

Meadows has been advocating for a “skinny” bill that would only address the needs of small businesses and individuals. Pelosi has demanded a bill that would also include aid for states and localities to provide more coronavirus tests and other essential functions as well as money for schools, rental and food assistance and the U.S. Postal Service to ensure pandemic-era absentee voting goes smoothly.

Both Sides Have Moved From Their Original Proposals, But Not Close Enough to Make a Deal

In May, the Democratically-controlled House passed a $3 trillion bill called the HEROES Act, which has since languished on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk. Later in May, Republicans responded by introducing a bill called the HEALS Act, which would cost around $1 trillion. Since then, Pelosi has offered to trim the Democrats’ bill by $800 billion while Republicans moved their estimate up by $300 billion.

Since then, neither side has been able to close the gap between $2.2 trillion and $1.3 trillion. In fact, Pelosi said she told Meadows that Democrats were not budging during an August 27 phone call, according to Forbes.

Now Pelosi is looking to sidestep White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows entirely and negotiate directly with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, according to the Hill. The Hill reported that Pelosi “demoted Meadows — a member of Trump’s Cabinet with an office adjoining the president’s — to the rank of aide to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whom she referred to as the principal White House negotiator for the Republicans.”

Unfortunately, that has also not appeared very fruitful.

Reuters reported that Pelosi spoke to Mnuchin on Tuesday (September 1), but the two sides have not moved any closer to a deal. “Sadly, this phone call made clear that Democrats and the White House continue to have serious differences understanding the gravity of the situation that America’s working families are facing,” Pelosi said.

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