President Trump and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows blasted Democratic leaders Friday for “playing politics” in stalled negotiations over extending enhanced unemployment benefits that have expired for tens of millions of workers.
Mr. Meadows said the White House has made four different offers in negotiations this week, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer have rejected all of them.
“They have not even been countered with a proposal,” Mr. Meadows told reporters. “The Democrats are certainly willing today to allow some of the American citizens who are struggling the most under this pandemic to go unprotected. What we are seeing is politics as usual from Democrats up on Capitol Hill.”
Mr. Trump said Democrats are playing “a political game.”
“I think the Democrats don’t care about the people of our country,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “It is a disgrace that they’re not negotiating.”
He said Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer “know what I want.”
“I want our people to be able to live, and live well, because it wasn’t their fault that China brought in this pandemic,” the president said. “It’s China’s fault.”
He said China “should be paying for it.”
“And maybe they will,” the president added.
Democrats want to extend the unemployment benefits of $600 per week through January. The Senate GOP proposal backed by the White House has sought to reduce those payments to $200, but the administration has since modified its offers to a shorter-term extension of $600.
Mrs. Pelosi said after talks ended Thursday night, “I think they understand that we have to have a bill, but they just don’t realize how big it has to be.”
Asked about reports that the White House is willing to drop liability protections for businesses, churches and others reopening in the pandemic, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the liability shield “is a question for Mitch McConnell,” the Senate majority leader.
“That’s his priority,” she said. “This president is very keenly focused on unemployment insurance.”
While negotiations will continue this weekend, no congressional action on unemployment benefits will take place until next week at the earliest. The enhanced federal benefits, which expired Friday, were on top of regular state unemployment benefits.
Mr. Meadows criticized Democrats for raising the cost of a relief package during negotiations. He noted that the House-passed bill calls for school aid of $100 billion, but Democrats now are seeking $400 billion.
“They’re going in the wrong direction because of partisan politics,” he said. “It is very disappointing. We’re willing to engage.”
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