- The Washington Times
Friday, July 31, 2020

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer on Friday said the White House a day earlier had offered Democrats a straight four-month extension of the existing $600-per-week boost in unemployment benefits — an offer that was apparently rebuffed.

“Mark Meadows yesterday said maybe we can do a four-month extension on the $600,” Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Mr. Meadows is the White House chief of staff.

“Why did he say that? Because his economic advisers are saying have you seen what’s happened to the economy? If we don’t help prop it up, people are going to be in deep, deep distress, and so many people are now,” Mr. Hoyer said.

The Senate adjourned for the week on Thursday without a deal on a comprehensive coronavirus relief package, although Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did tee things up so the chamber could act quickly next week if there is a breakthrough.

The offer from Mr. Meadows means Republicans are essentially negotiating among themselves at this point in the proceedings.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly refused to consider a piecemeal or stopgap approach.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, is pushing a $3 trillion-plus package the House passed in May that extended the juiced-up unemployment benefits through January and included billions of additional dollars for direct payments to Americans and state and local governments.

Senate Republicans introduced a $1 trillion package earlier in the week that would lower the extra benefits to $200 per week until states can pay people 70% of lost wages.

GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Martha McSally of Arizona and Mitt Romney of Utah also rolled out a slightly different offer on Thursday.

Ms. McSally on Thursday tried to pass a one-week extension of the current benefits via unanimous consent but was blocked by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, who called her effort a stunt.

Democrats want the full $600-per-week additional benefits extended at least through the end of the year.

The current benefits expire at the end of this week.

Mr. Hoyer said Mr. Meadows, a former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, has not been a helpful presence in the ongoing negotiations.

He described Mr. Meadows as a “pleasant fella” but said “he was head of the tea party.”

“I think Mark Meadows is not particularly helpful in this,” he said.

Mr. Hoyer said he thinks Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin has tried to be helpful but that Republican senators don’t trust Mr. Mnuchin.

“And so you have no synergy between the Republican president and the Republican Senate, and they are locked into indecision,” he said.

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