Senate Republicans were discussing a way to hold a vote, possibly early next week, on just the unemployment benefit. But there were no signs that Democrats, who have been resisting such a narrow response, would go along.
With little prospect of having to be in Washington to vote on a coronavirus-response bill this week, the Senate was mulling beginning its weekend immediately and returning on Monday — after the unemployment insurance benefit has expired.
Democrats have been pushing for extending the jobless benefit as part of a $3 trillion coronavirus-aid bill the US House of Representatives passed in March, while Republicans want $1 trillion overall. They have proposed a $200 weekly benefit, which would come in addition to state unemployment payments.
The past four days of private talks involving top White House and congressional officials have yielded no tangible results and much of Thursday was spent with Republicans and Democrats criticizing each other.
“Republicans don’t want this aid to expire,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “But the Speaker and the Democratic Leader say they won’t agree to anything unless the program pays people more to stay home than to work,” he added.
He was referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
Schumer answered back, saying a “skinny bill” floated by the White House to provide reduced unemployment benefits did not have the votes to pass the House or the Senate. “It’s a stunt.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have been meeting with Democratic leaders over how best to help the country recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.