White House, Democratic leaders trade barbs over pandemic aid deal12 August 2020 AFP, Washington
The White House traded barbs with Democratic leaders on Monday over who is to blame for the failure to agree on a new pandemic relief package, even as coronavirus cases soared and workers continue to struggle to pay the rent.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said reaching a deal is possible if Democrats in Congress are willing to give ground on some of their demands.
But Senator Chuck Schumer, the lead Democrat in the upper house of Congress, slammed the administration as being unwilling to compromise, and called President Donald Trump's efforts to skirt legislation with presidential action "laughable."
Trump signed four executive orders over the weekend as a stopgap measure after the White House and Democratic leadership failed to reach a deal for a new round of emergency aid to workers and businesses. The stalemate comes as the COVID-19 case count in the US has soared past five million, unemployment remains high and extra unemployment benefits have expired.
Schumer and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and met several times last week with Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to try to bridge the gap between the Democrats $3 trillion proposal and the Republicans' $1 trillion plan.
However, Mnuchin called the Democratic offer to come down to $2 trillion, including aid to state and local governments, "absurd."
He said Monday on CNBC that "there's a deal to do if the Democrats are reasonable and want to compromise."
"But what we're not going to deal with, where there's really bad policy ideas. We're not going to just split the difference," Mnuchin said.
Schumer hit back saying Trump's measures were "unworkable, weak, and far too narrow," Schumer said on MSNBC.
"We're not going to settle for some skimpy thing that doesn't work," he said.
Trump has repeatedly rejected any plan that offers aid to state and local governments, saying Monday on Twitter that Pelosi and Schumer "only wanted BAILOUT MONEY for Democrat run states and cities that are failing badly."