May 15, 2021

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Democrats, the White House are still at impasse over coronavirus bill

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, speaks to reporters in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 29, 2020.

Erin Scott | Reuters

The top Democrats in Congress are not close to a deal with the White House to pump more money into the U.S. economy to ease the coronavirus’ heavy toll, both sides said on Saturday, after an essential lifeline for millions of unemployed Americans expired.

“This was the longest meeting we had and it was more productive than the other meetings,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “There are many issues that are still very much outstanding.”

Schumer made the remarks after he and U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi concluded a three-hour meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows at the Capitol on Saturday.

“We’re still a long ways apart and I don’t want to suggest a deal is imminent because it is not,” Mnuchin told reporters, adding “there are still substantial differences but we did make good progress.”

However, in a statement late Saturday, Pelosi called the talks “more productive.”

“Today’s meeting was more productive than our previous discussions, but no agreement can be reached yet,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Work will continue on a staff level tomorrow. Leader Schumer and I will meet again with Secretary Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Meadows on Monday.”

Congress for the past several months has been unable to reach an accord for a next round of economic relief from a pandemic that has killed more than 150,000 Americans and triggered the sharpest economic collapse since the Great Depression.

In a meeting on Thursday night between top White House officials and congressional Democratic leaders, negotiations focused on an extension of the $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits, which Americans who lost jobs because of the health crisis have been receiving in addition to state jobless payments.

Pelosi said on Friday that she rejected an offer by Republican President Donald Trump’s administration to continue the $600 payments for another week, saying she wanted a more comprehensive deal.

The House in May passed a $3 trillion deal that addressed a wide range of coronavirus responses, including more money for testing, for elections and support to financially strapped state and local governments.

“There is clearly a desire on their part to do an entire package,” Mnuchin told reporters. “We’ve made clear that we are willing to deal with the short-term issues and pass something quickly and come back to larger issues. So we are at an impasse on that.”

CNBC contributed to this report.

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