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Stimulus talks: White House, Dems still agree on $1,200 checks but deadlocked on unemployment assistance

United States Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin arrives for the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Hearings to examine implementation of Title I of the CARES Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 10, 2020.

Kevin Dietsch | Pool via Reuters

Familiar fault lines continue to separate the White House and congressional Democrats on the next coronavirus stimulus package a day after an extended meeting between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and administration officials including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Pelosi and Mnuchin both took to the airways on Sunday morning to lay out their competing visions for the rescue bill. The key sticking point separating Democrats and Republicans continues to be the federal boost to unemployment assistance, which was set at $600 per week in March but recently lapsed.

While the White House has come out in favor of reducing the federal assistance to $200 a week, Democrats have called for keeping it at the $600 level.

During an interview on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Pelosi said that Trump was standing in the way of an agreement.

“We’ve been for the $600. They have a $200 proposal, which does meet the needs of America’s working families, and it’s a condescension, quite frankly,” Pelosi said.

“They’re saying, ‘They really don’t need it. They’re just staying home because they make more money at $600,'” she added. 

Appearing on the same program shortly after, Mnuchin said the administration was worried about the cost.

“There’s obviously a need to support workers, support the economy,” Mnuchin said. “On the other hand, we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amounts of debt.”

He also argued that the increased benefits discourage unemployed workers from seeking employment, though economists have said that does not appear to be happening

“There are cases where people are overpaid,” Mnuchin said. 

The White House has said it would support a one-week extension of the $600 per week rate but Democrats have rejected the proposal as unworkable. 

Despite disagreement over unemployment assistance, Mnuchin said the two sides were still on the same page about the need for direct cash payments of $1,200 to most Americans. 

Speaking to reporters following his interview, Mnuchin said that Trump was in favor of the stimulus measure and that the checks were likely to be sent more quickly than they were the first time, possibly as soon as a week after the legislation is signed. 

When that will be remains up in the air, however. A staff level meeting between the two sides is expected for Sunday, with Mnuchin and Pelosi meeting in person on Monday, along with Meadows and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. 

Meadows, for his part, seemed to pour cold water on the idea of a deal being reached in the coming days during his own television interview on Sunday, on CBS’s “Face The Nation.” 

“I’m not optimistic that there will be a solution in the very near term,” Meadows said. 

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