Wednesday, 23 Sep 2020

U.S. lawmakers trade barbs on coronavirus aid, no talks on deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate’s top Republican and Democrat criticized each others’ approach to coronavirus aid on Tuesday, with no word on when talks on a new package might resume and no movement on benefits for tens of millions who lost jobs in the crisis.

Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of attacking Americans struggling with the economic fallout of a virus that has infected more than 5 million Americans and killed more than 162,000.

“They’re playing hardball against kids, workers, vulnerable Americans,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

The Senate’s Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, portrayed Republicans as a party in disarray, saying President Donald Trump should be trying to break the logjam.

“So many Republicans are saying: ‘Don’t do a thing – don’t do a thing.’ They’re glad the negotiations have broken down. We’re not,” Schumer said.

Aid to state and local governments – a Democratic priority that Republicans generally resist – and supplemental unemployment benefits for millions of workers displaced by the pandemic are two of the biggest sticking points in the talks.

After talks between top administration officials and congressional Democratic leaders broke down on Friday, Trump on Saturday signed orders seeking to bypass Congress and provide some relief, including delaying student loan payments and providing some unemployment aid.

Experts said Trump’s actions would do little to boost the economy even if he can overcome legal questions about his decision to sidestep Congress.

White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow said on Tuesday Trump’s plan would provide $300 per week in federal unemployment aid, in addition to state benefits. This is down from the $600 per week in supplemental federal benefits out-of-work Americans got from late March until late July, when those benefits expired.

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