WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Top Republican leadership was onhand Saturday in hopes of sparking new coronavirus aid talks as the House approved legislation that would reverse recent changes in U.S. Postal Service operations and send $25 billion to shore up the agency ahead of the November election.
President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was on Capitol Hill meeting with GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy and other lawmakers. Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have served as Republican negotiators during recent aid negotiations with Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
When the two sides couldn’t agree to terms on a wide-ranging package expected to include $1,200 stimulus checks, Trump took actions into his own hands — issuing four executive orders designed to give temporary reprieve, offering $300 in jobless benefits and some other aid.
Meadows spoke to the media Saturday indicating the ball is in the court of Democratic leadership when it comes to passing a package.
“I even think that we can come up with an agreement on stimulus checks to Americans and enhanced unemployment,” Meadows said. “Those issues are not as divisive as we might think.”
The talks stalled over a few key issues and the overall size of the package. While Republicans pitched $1 trillion in aid, Democratic leadership was aiming for $3 trillion.
“Let’s at least pass what we can all agree to,” Meadows noted.
The idea of a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks has bipartisan support, with Trump even saying the amount could go higher.
“I’d like to see it be very high because I love the people. I want the people to get it, you know, the economy is going to come back,” Trump said during a July visit to West Texas. “We saved millions of lives, but now we’re bringing (the economy) back … we gotta take care of the people in the meantime.”
On Saturday, House lawmakers appeared hopeful negotiators could agree to terms that included an additional check. Naturally, each side pointed at their political adversaries as the cause of the issue.
“My job is to keep fighting to make sure that the next package of COVID relief comes to happen,” said Rep. Lou Correa, a Democrat serving the area around Anaheim, California.
“It’s been frustrating for me to watch this unfold as it has,” said Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham of South Carolina. “I would encourage everyone to remain at the negotiating table, (and) hammer out a deal recognizing that not everyone is going to get everything they want. Do not let perfect be the enemy of good.”
While some Republican lawmakers want to wait and see how money set aside in the previous aid package is utilized, others agree it’s time to reexamine the idea of additional relief.
“I believe it’s important to look at things we can do to stimulate the economy with things like stimulus checks, but also making sure that we are not continuing to add trillions of dollars of debt that (will) have to be paid by our children and grandchildren,” said Rep. Michael Guest of Mississippi.
The Republican, who won his seat in 2018 as a Trump supporter, noted he’d only be interested in supporting a scaled-down version of an aid package.
Meadows told reporters Saturday he went to Pelosi’s office in hopes of meeting to discuss additional aid and was told she was in a meeting. He plans to make another attempt to go back to the bargaining table in the days to come.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.