WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — If you were hoping to have your next $1,200 stimulus check by now, you’re out of luck. Washington talks on vital COVID-19 rescue money are teetering on the brink of collapse after a marathon meeting in the Capitol generated lots of recriminations but little progress on the top issues confronting negotiators.
“There’s a handful of very big issues that we are still very far apart” on, said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He talked of impasses on aid to states and local governments and renewing supplemental unemployment benefits in the Thursday night meetings.
Both sides said the future of the talks is uncertain. President Donald Trump is considering executive orders to address evictions and unemployment insurance, but they appear unlikely to have much impact.
A breakdown in the talks would put at risk more than $100 billion to help reopen schools, a fresh round of $1,200 direct payments to most people and hundreds of billions of dollars for state and local governments to help them avoid furloughing workers and cutting services as tax revenues shrivel.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York emerged to give a pessimistic update about the chances for an agreement.
“We’re very far apart. It’s most unfortunate,” Pelosi said.
Both sides have adopted a hard line in the talks, though the Trump team is more open in disclosing a handful of its proposed compromises. Republicans were late to agree to the talks and have become frustrated by the inflexible tactics of Pelosi and Schumer, who have been exuding confidence in a political and legislative landscape that’s tilted in their favor.
The Democratic pair say the federal coronavirus aid package needs to be huge to meet the moment: a surge in cases and deaths, double-digit joblessness and the threat of poverty for millions of the newly unemployed.
“We believe the patient needs a major operation while Republicans want to apply just a Band-Aid,” Schumer said. “We won’t let them just pass the Band-Aid, go home and leave America bleeding.”
Senate Republicans have been split, with roughly half of McConnell’s rank and file opposed to another rescue bill at all. Four prior coronavirus response bills totaling almost $3 trillion have passed on bipartisan votes despite intense wrangling. But Trump and McConnell want a bill and discussed the topic at the White House on Thursday morning.
The White House is also promising that Trump will attempt to use executive orders to address elements of the congressional package involving evictions and jobless benefits. But there’s no evidence that the strategy would have much impact or be anything close to what’s necessary, and Pelosi appeared unimpressed at a morning news conference.
“I don’t think they know what they’re talking about,” Pelosi said dismissively.
Pelosi and Schumer staked out a firm position to extend a lapsed $600-per-week bonus jobless benefit, demanded generous child care assistance and reiterated their demand for food stamps and assistance to renters and homeowners facing eviction or foreclosure.
“Don’t nickel and dime our children,” Pelosi said. “Don’t say, ‘We want to give a tax break to a business lunch and not give more money for children to have food stamps.’”
Pelosi was referring to a GOP proposal to increase the deduction for business meals from 50% to 100%. The idea seems likely to die, along with Trump’s efforts to cut the Social Security payroll tax. But Schumer and Pelosi continue to push to restore a tax break for state and local taxes paid mostly by wealthier people with high incomes and valuable homes.
McConnell, R-Ky., is likely to have to assume a higher profile if the talks are to come to a successful close, but he issued a grim assessment of the situation Thursday, again complaining that Pelosi and Schumer are not negotiating in good faith.
“Day after day, they’ve stonewalled the president’s team. Day by day, they’ve tried to invent new euphemisms to create the illusion of progress,” McConnell said Thursday.
Frustration was palpable among Republican senators shuttling in and out of a GOP lunch session, some of whom say Schumer is intent on using the situation as a hammer against Republicans. Schumer is desperate to win the Senate majority just as Republicans are in trying to hold on in a terrible political year.
“As long as they calculate that they’re better off politically doing nothing, it’s going to be hard for us to move forward,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “And that’s the calculation they’ve made, it appears.”
McConnell is sending the Senate home rather than forcing impatient senators to bide their time while Democrats play hardball. That suggests a vote won’t come until late next week or even after. Progress has been scant in the talks despite more than a week of negotiation.
White House negotiators made some concessions on jobless benefits and aid to state and local governments in a Tuesday session — and then promptly got scalded by Republicans after details leaked out.
More money for dependents
The GOP plan calls for checks up to $1,200 for most taxpayers plus an additional $500 for any dependent. The word “any” is the change that could result in additional dollars.
According to Yahoo Finance, parents of older high schoolers and college students claimed as dependents would get the bonus. This also includes anyone taking care of elderly relatives who are also claimed as dependents.
In the first round of stimulus payments, only parents of dependents under 17 received the additional $500.
“We also include, in the additional $500 for each dependent, some people that we didn’t intend to leave out last time, but we did,” Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Monday. “So regardless of age, some of these dependents will now be helped.”
A Democratic plan approved in the House back in May proposed a similar structure for dependents but with the amount being $1,200 instead of $500.
President Trump wants larger checks?
During a visit to West Texas Wednesday, President Trump hinted that a second round of stimulus checks could exceed the $1,200 payment amount issued in the first COVID-19 stimulus package.
When asked if $1,200 was enough, Trump said, “We’re going to see it may go higher than that, actually.”
“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 continued. “We saved millions of lives but now we’re bringing (the economy) back … we gotta take care of the people in the meantime.”
How much money will I get?
Outside of the dependent payment, here’s how the payment up to $1,200 breaks down, according to CNBC:
- Individuals earning a gross adjusted income of up to $75,000 per year in 2019 will receive a $1,200 payment.
- Couples earning a gross adjusted income of up to $150,000 per year in 2019 will receive a $2,400 payment.
- The checks will be reduced by $5 for every $100 in income, phasing out completely at $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for couples.
- Individuals with no income and individuals who rely on benefits such as Social Security are eligible for the full $1,200 payment
The Associated Press contributed to this report.