Negotiators on a huge coronavirus relief bill reported slight progress after talks resumed Monday afternoon in the Capitol, with issues like food for the poor and aid to schools struggling to reopen safely assuming a higher profile in the talks.
Multiple obstacles remain, including an impasse so far on extending a $600-per-week pandemic jobless benefit, funding for the Postal Service, and aid to renters facing eviction. Democratic negotiators spoke of progress at almost the very moment that top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell was slamming them for taking a hard line in the talks.
All sides predict a long slog ahead. Several more days of talks are expected, if not more, as lawmakers seek to deliver what will likely be the final legislative response to the pandemic before the November election.
“We are really getting an understanding of each side’s position. And we’re making some progress on certain issues moving closer together,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “There are a lot of issues that are still outstanding. But I think there is a desire to get something done as soon as we can."
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a lead negotiator for President Donald Trump, said afterward that “we continue to make a little bit of progress" and that the administration is not insistent on a small-bore approach centered on extending the supplemental unemployment benefit and leaving other items for later. A GOP move to advance a slimmed-down relief package has been a recent point of conflict, with Democrats insisting there must be a comprehensive deal.
“We’re open to a bigger package if we can reach an agreement,” Mnuchin said.
In other developments:
- White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx says she’s watching so-called “yellow states” where cases are increasing and expressed concern about Missouri and Tennessee. Vice President Mike Pence, chair of the task force, said he and Birx have been counseling the heartland states and fully support measures they’re taking to slow the spread.
- Putting your child on the bus for the first day of school is always a leap of faith for a parent. Now, on top of the usual worries about youngsters adjusting to new teachers and classmates, there’s COVID-19.
- The Trump administration is taking steps to give telehealth a broader role under Medicare, with an executive order that serves as a call for Congress to make doctor visits via personal technology a permanent fixture of the program.
- The House Oversight Committee has invited the new postmaster general to appear at a hearing next month to examine operational changes to the U.S. Postal Service that are causing delays in mail deliveries across the country.
- Seven St. Louis Cardinals players and six staff members tested positive for COVID-19, causing Major League Baseball to postpone the team's four-game series at Detroit. Monday is the eighth straight day with at least one game called off by coronavirus concerns.
- Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter blamed the team's coronavirus outbreak on a collective false sense of security that made players lax about social distancing and wearing masks.
- The Raiders will have to wait another year to show off their fancy new home to their fans in Las Vegas. The team sent a letter to season ticket holders saying that after discussion with health care officials and local leaders, the decision was made not to allow fans at games this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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