White House, Congress see little progress on coronavirus bill as deadline nears

July 29 , 2020 2:27 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. congressional Republicans and Democrats, struggling to reach a deal to provide more aid to those hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, slid on Wednesday toward letting a $600-per-week unemployment benefit lapse when it expires this week.

High-ranking Trump administration officials met privately with lawmakers from both parties to see if they can bridge vast differences over the enhanced unemployment benefit and a host of other issues including a moratorium on evictions that expired last Friday.

Despite the day of meetings, there was little apparent progress on legislation to ease the impact of a pandemic that has killed 150,000 Americans and thrown tens of millions out of work.

“Our Republican friends don’t seem to come close to meeting the moment,” Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s Democratic leader, told reporters after he and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Senator John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said lawmakers might have a better idea by the end of this week on whether there is a chance for a deal so “that we could actually get to a package by the end of next week.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Republican President Donald Trump said he was in no hurry to act despite the tight deadlines.

“We’re so far apart, we don’t care. We really don’t care,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House for a trip to Texas, blaming Democrats.

While some Republicans talked about the need for a stopgap extension of the enhanced unemployment benefit, Pelosi said she opposed doing that or leaving behind other initiatives important to Democrats.