Top Democrats say Mnuchin sought coronavirus meeting, showed no movement

By Susan Heavey and Susan Cornwell WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The two top Democrats in the U.S. Congress said on Wednesday that the White House sought a new meeting on stalled coronavirus aid talks but showed no sign of moving away from the positions it held when negotiations broke down last week.

Reuters August 13, 2020 03:11:33 IST
Top Democrats say Mnuchin sought coronavirus meeting, showed no movement

coronavirus meeting, showed no movement" src="https://images.firstpost.com/wp-content/uploads/reuters/08-2020/13/2020-08-12T133116Z_1_LYNXNPEG7B10Q_RTROPTP_2_HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-USA-CONGRESS.jpg" alt="Top Democrats say Mnuchin sought coronavirus meeting showed no movement" width="300" height="225" />

By Susan Heavey and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The two top Democrats in the U.S. Congress said on Wednesday that the White House sought a new meeting on stalled coronavirus aid talks but showed no sign of moving away from the positions it held when negotiations broke down last week.

While suggesting interest in ending the five-day stalemate on talks, the contact did not show either side willing to shift from their rival proposals on aid for tens of millions of Americans suffering from the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"An overture was made by Secretary (Steven) Mnuchin to meet and he made clear that ... the White House is not budging from their position concerning the size and scope of a legislative package," House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.

"We have again made clear to the administration that we are willing to resume negotiations once they start to take this process seriously," they said in the statement.

Mnuchin initiated contact with Pelosi just before 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), according to a source familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A Treasury spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mnuchin said there may be no deal to reach with Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, despite more than 5.16 million COVID-19 cases in the United States, and described the potential outcome in terms of Republican President Donald Trump's re-election prospects.

"If the Democrats are willing to be reasonable, there's a compromise. If the Democrats are focused on politics and don’t want to do anything that's going to succeed for the president, there won’t be a deal," he told Fox Business Channel.

The global pandemic has taken a particularly heavy toll on the United States, where it has killed more than 164,000 people, more than any other country and made millions of workers jobless, who have now seen a further hit after $600 per week in additional federal unemployment benefits expired last month.

Talks on a new package broke down last Friday after Democrats offered to reduce their demand for more than $3 trillion in additional aid by about $1 trillion, if the White House agreed to come up by a similar amount from an initial $1 trillion Republican proposal.

Mnuchin described the Democrats' offer as "ridiculous."

Pelosi later said the two sides were "miles apart" with a "chasm" between them and called on the White House and Republicans to "meet in the middle."

"Until they're ready to do that, it's no use sitting in a room and letting them tell us that states should go bankrupt," she told MSNBC. "As a practical matter, they're going to have to come to the table."

Sticking points include the size of an extended unemployment benefit, aid to state and local governments, money for schools to reopen and other issues.

Congress has already approved about $3 trillion in assistance for families, hospitals, healthcare workers, state and local governments, vaccine research and testing.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who did not join any of the negotiating sessions, blamed Pelosi and Schumer for the ongoing impasse.

"Republicans wanted to reach agreement on all these issues where we could find common ground and fight over the last few issues later." McConnell said on the Senate floor.

"But the speaker and the Democratic leader say nothing can move unless every one of these unrelated far-left items tags along."

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday found that Americans divide blame pretty evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, David Lawder and Susan Cornwell; Writing by David Morgan; Editing by Toby Chopra, Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.