White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is framing a broadly agreed upon timeline for coming together on a COVID relief package as a hard cutoff.
He told reporters Friday that he’s become “extremely doubtful that we will be able to make a deal if it goes well beyond Friday.”
“Just because we’ve been spending so much time together, if you’re not making progress, there’s no sense to continue,” he added.
Meadows, along with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, has been representing the Republican side in the negotiations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have been heading up the Democratic side.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), coming out of the GOP lunch where he was briefed by Meadows and Mnuchin, told reporters that they’d been told, “If there’s not a deal by Friday, there won’t be a deal.”
The new cutoff seems to be a harder line than what the negotiators said Tuesday after their seventh meeting.
“We’re not at the point of being close to a deal, but we did try to agree to set a timeline,” Mnuchin said then. “We’re going to try to reach an overall agreement, if we can get one, by the end of this week — so that legislation could then pass next week.”
Pelosi too said Tuesday that she was hopeful they’d reach an agreement by the end of the week.
By all accounts, the two sides are still far apart on many components of the relief package. Per Politico, Republicans budged on the unemployment insurance benefit, offering up $400 a week until mid-December to try to placate the Democrats who are insisting on $600 a week. They also reportedly offered to up funding for state and local governments to $150- 200 billion, still a far cry from Democrats’ ask of $1 trillion.
Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY), for one, seems to believe that there will be reason to stick around next week, despite the scheduled August recess.
“We’re certainly going to be in next week,” he said. “We’ll see what happens after that.”