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Congress and Trump to restart stimulus negotiations as $300 unemployment benefit expires

September 24, 2020, 6:39 PM UTC

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress on Thursday that the White House and Democratic leaders will resume stimulus negotiations.

Earlier talks stalled at the end of August after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to come down from her party’s offer of $2.2 trillion in economic aid, and the White House wouldn’t budge from its offer of $1.3 trillion. Pelosi confirmed that talks would restart, though as of now no firm timeline has been announced by either side.

Democratic and Republican leaders haven’t publicly said if they’ve changed their offers. However, President Donald Trump suggested an openness last week to a $1.5 trillion compromise package—$200 billion more than his last offer—put forward by a bipartisan group of Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives.

There are items that both parties still support including in the next package, such as a second round of stimulus checks, an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits, and more aid for small businesses and hospitals. They’re in disagreement on items like a steep increase in federal aid to state and local governments, which Democrats support, and COVID-19 lawsuit immunity for businesses, which Republicans support.

Why suddenly an increased sense of urgency? For starters, the economic recovery is showing signs of slowing, and economists are calling for more economic aid. Look no further than the more than 870,000 additional new unemployment claims filed last week as employers continue to lay off workers en masse.

And the $300 enhanced weekly unemployment benefits, paid on top of state benefits, that President Donald Trump issued through a memorandum in August are set to expire before the end of the month as funding runs out. Already, more than a dozen states have announced they’ll stop paying it. If the enhanced unemployment benefits are to be extended, it will likely take an act of Congress.

But getting a stimulus package passed won’t be easy, especially in light of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Senate Republicans announcing plans to vote on Trump’s soon-to-be-announced Supreme Court nominee, which have heightened partisan tension on the Hill.