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Coronavirus Relief Package Negotiations Stalled After Nearly 2 Weeks


Americans are looking to Washington for coronavirus relief. But after nearly two weeks of talks, leaders from both parties can only seem to agree that they are nowhere close to a deal.


CHUCK SCHUMER: It was a disappointing meeting.


STEVEN MNUCHIN: The president would like us to make a deal. But, unfortunately, we did not make any progress today.

SHAPIRO: That was Democratic leader Sen. Chuck Schumer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin after their latest meeting this afternoon. And administration officials now say they will recommend the president issue executive orders on unemployment benefits and other sticking points. Congressional reporter Claudia Grisales has been following all of this and joins us now.

Hi, Claudia.


SHAPIRO: Democratic leaders have been meeting with White House officials nearly every day. What's the latest from today's meeting?

GRISALES: Well, as you just heard, all sides said it was disappointing - some progress, but not a lot. Both sides started out with a Democratic proposal that was more than $3 trillion. They approved this in the House a few months ago. Just recently, Republicans countered with a trillion-dollar plan. And while both sides have budged on some issues, they're still very far apart. Democrats said they'll drop their plan by a trillion dollars if Republicans could come up a trillion dollars, and they could be within range of a deal. But Secretary Mnuchin said today a $2 trillion plan is a, quote, "nonstarter." Here's what he and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said after today's meeting.


MNUCHIN: We will continue to try to get an agreement that's in the best interest of the people, and that's why we're here.

MARK MEADOWS: But in the meantime, we're going to take executive orders to try to alleviate some of the pain that people spend - are experiencing.

GRISALES: So as you can hear from there, this doesn't sound very inspiring when it comes to reaching a bipartisan plan on Capitol Hill. And with an executive order plan, Trump and his team have said they've been considering this as a last resort if a deal couldn't be reached today. And so Trump is working on these orders now with his officials, and so this is something we could hear about more in the coming days.

SHAPIRO: So what are the big sticking points?

GRISALES: So the list is long. We're talking about at least a trillion dollars in differences here. For example, Democrats wanted to see that extra $600 weekly unemployment benefit reinstated. It expired last week. But Republicans wanted that to come down to $200. Another big fight is state and local governments. They're facing very dire financial pictures. And Democrats want to see $915 billion diverted to these - to support frontline workers. But so far, Republicans have only offered about $100 billion to go towards schools. So that's a really big gap there. And Democrats are worried about a slew of other issues, like food insecurity for families that are struggling, safe election voting options, the U.S. Postal Service. And Republicans have said they're worried about the spending.

SHAPIRO: Now, senators have mostly gone home, although the leaders have stayed in Washington. Does that mean there's basically no chance of a deal, especially if the White House is calling these executive orders a last resort?

GRISALES: Yes, that's something that a lot of folks are wondering about today. Meadows and Mnuchin said they'll come back to the table when Democrats have new proposals to offer, and Democrats clearly see this as their last shot to get in what they want on this next wave of relief. Here's House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and what she said after the meeting. Let's take a listen.


NANCY PELOSI: When you have an opportunity like this to do something for the American people, it's an opportunity. But we can't have it be a missed opportunity to do that by settling for something so low, so beneath the - meeting the needs of the American people.

GRISALES: So now we'll be watching to see if Trump acts on these executive orders in the coming days and, if so, if they'll have the legal clearance to have any impact on all these current economic woes that we're seeing.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales.

Thanks, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.