Blame game in high gear as Covid relief talks stall

“They think they have political leverage over the president of the United States and so they’re willing to personally increase the pain for vulnerable families unless they get their way on matters not related to Covid,” McConnell claimed on the Senate floor. “Republicans wanted to agree on the things we could agree to. Democrats said our way or the highway.”

But Schumer rebutted the GOP’s claims, saying the White House and top Senate Republicans were the ones who refused to compromise, leading to inaction on critical issues including testing, education funding and additional stimulus payments.

“Rather than compromise, our Republican counterparts said, ‘Take a hike,'” Schumer said. “Quite literally they said virtually this in the room: ‘It’s going to be our way or no. We’re not going to meet you in the middle.'”

Schumer added: “This Republican Party is so tied in a knot it can’t agree on anything. It can only spew the same political speech day after day.”

Talks between the White House and Democratic leaders collapsed on Friday after two weeks of unsuccessful closed-door negotiations. Trump then issued a series of executive actions on Saturday he said would address the ongoing economic crisis from the coronavirus pandemic. The actions included a memo ordering federal agencies to take steps to reduce evictions, extensions of the suspension of student loan payments and interest and of federal unemployment benefits at a lower rate, and the deferral of payroll taxes.

Democrats lambasted Trump’s actions as ineffectual and legally dubious, although they have not filed any legal challenges yet.

“The bottom line is even if [the orders are legal], they’re not going to what’s needed or come even close,” Schumer told Capitol Hill reporters on Monday.

The Senate will remain in session but with no scheduled votes unless there is an agreement, McConnell and other GOP senators said. The vast majority of senators are out of town with a 24-hour notice to return if a vote is scheduled.

As for House Democrats, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced on the Monday that there will be no votes until the week of Sept. 14, unless an agreement on more Covid relief is reached.

The impasse over a new coronavirus relief package comes as the United States now has seen 5 million cases and more than 160,000 deaths from the disease. The economy is also showing little sign of improvement. The Labor Department reported Friday that the economy added 1.8 million jobs in July, but job growth also slowed down and the unemployment rate remains at 10.2 percent.