Republicans, Democrats trade blame for stalled U.S. coronavirus aid legislation

FILE PHOTO: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks about stalled congressional talks with the Trump administration on the latest coronavirus relief during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, August 13. (REUTERS)

Top Democrats and Republicans blamed each other for stalled talks on coronavirus aid legislation on Sunday, a day after the House of Representatives approved $25 billion in new funds for the U.S. Postal Service, a bill that Republicans declared dead.

The Democratic-led House passed the bill on Saturday in a special session called by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to prevent dwindling Postal Service funding and planned service cuts from interfering with delivery of mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3 election.

But the vote failed to shift a stalemate over the next phase of coronavirus aid since Aug. 6, when talks between the White House and Democratic congressional leaders broke down over funding levels and unemployment benefits. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Republican-controlled chamber would “absolutely not pass” the postal bill.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Sunday criticized the Democratic vote as “a largely messaging bill” and blamed Pelosi for failing to agree on broader legislation that included supplemental unemployment benefits. He had, however, reached out to Pelosi’s office on Saturday.

“I haven’t heard from the speaker yet. I am going to make a phone call to her today,” Meadows said on ABC’s “This Week”. “My challenge to the speaker this morning would be this: If we agree on five or six things, let’s go ahead and pass those.”

He said President Donald Trump would be willing to sign such a bill that includes postal service reform and funding. The Trump administration had previously offered $10 billion in additional postal funding, but the two sides remain far apart on overall funding levels.

Pelosi shot back on CNN’s “State of the Union”, saying that the postal bill addressed “an emergency immediately and it’s something that should be bipartisan.”

“The public is demanding action on this now,” Pelosi said.

She also said Trump was stalling needed coronavirus relief for cities and children for political gain, signaling that negotiations were likely to make little progress during the Republican National Convention, which gets underway this week.

“This is like ancient Rome. Trump fiddles while Rome burns, while America burns,” Pelosi said. “And Trump gives bread and circuses without the bread. So we’ll see the circus this week with his convention.”


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