The top two Congressional Democrats Thursday accused Republicans of trying to “nickel and dime” struggling Americans by pushing for the smallest coronavirus relief bill possible and not understanding the gravity of the pandemic and economic fallout.
The comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., at a Capitol news conference revealed Democrats are standing firm for a massive stimulus package, similar to House Democrats’ $3 trillion HEROES Act, and have rejected GOP efforts to slim down the response.
Pelosi said while there’s been progress negotiating with Republicans, “we’re not there yet.” She again refused to pass a short-term $600-per-week extension to the expired unemployment benefits, arguing the need for a bigger deal is the priority.
“We’re not having short-term extensions,” Pelosi said.
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Wednesday night, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the White House and Democrats were still “trillions of dollars apart” on a deal. Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been negotiating on behalf of the White House with the Democratic leaders.
Meadows accused Democrats of not budging, while Republicans are searching for a compromise.
“I think it’s fair to say that Republicans have made far more concessions than Democrats,” Meadows told reporters.
But Democrats said Republicans aren’t grasping the scope of the problem.
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“They want to pinch pennies. They’d like to get away with passing the skinniest most minimal bill possible and go home and wash their hands of it,” said Schumer, who referred to the GOP approach as a “Band-aid.” “We can’t do that because it will … leave Americans hurting and not get us out of the crisis, which is our job.”
Pelosi and Schumer stood firm about the need for state and local funding, rental assistance, more food aid, funds for voting by mail and the full $600-per-week federal unemployment insurance, which Republicans want to reduce because they view it as a disincentive to work.
“They are nickel and diming us,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said.
Without an immediate infusion of cash to help out-of-work Americans, hungry families and revenue-short local governments, Pelosi said the economic fallout will spiral downward.
“Think big because this is a big challenge and it will only get worse if we do not make the necessary investment,” Pelosi said. “Pay now or pay later — much more later.”
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Talks between both sides are expected to continue through at least Friday.
Fox News’ Jason Donner contributed to this report.