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Second stimulus check: negotiations in a "tragic impasse" says Pelosi

Talks between Nancy Pelosi and Trump advisor Mark Meadows failed to bear fruit and no further dialogue is expected unless Republicans meet Democrats "in the middle."

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Second stimulus check: negotiations in a "tragic impasse" says Pelosi
OLIVIER DOULIERY AFP

Republicans and Democrats remain deadlocked over the details of a fifth stimulus package to bolster the US economy amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis and provide crucial support to American families who are struggling to make ends meet during one of the worst periods of unemployment in US history. There seems to be little scope of a quick resolution to the issue with Democrats standing firm in their demands for the financial content of a new deal while the administration of President Donald Trump proposes increasingly watered-down versions to try and trim the overall cost to the federal coffers.

A telephone call on coronavirus economic relief between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and an adviser to Trump ended on Thursday with no breakthrough, and Pelosi said talks would not resume until the Trump administration agreed to $2.2 trillion in aid describing the stand-off as a “tragic impasse.”

Pelosi and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows spoke by phone for about 25 minutes, the first chance in weeks to resume stalled Covid-19 aid negotiations. But the two sides soon appeared to be as far apart as ever.

Pelosi: "We're willing to come down"

"This conversation made clear that the White House continues to disregard the needs of the American people as the coronavirus crisis devastates lives and livelihoods," Pelosi said in a statement following her conversation with Meadows. "We're willing to come down - meet them in the middle – that would be $2.2 trillion, and when they're ready to do that we'll be ready to discuss and negotiate the particulars," the top Democrat in Congress told reporters.

"But we can't go any less because we have to meet the needs of the American people. We will not short change them, we will not nickel and dime them."

Meadows and Pelosi are two of the four negotiators who were involved in talks on legislation to help Americans and businesses suffering from a coronavirus pandemic that has now killed nearly 180,000 people in the US. The others are Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

Democrats ask White House to "meet in the middle"

U.S. President Donald President Trump speaks during a briefing on Hurricane Laura at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters in Washington, U.S., August 27, 2020.

The talks broke down on 7 August with the sides far apart on major issues including the size of unemployment benefits for tens of millions of people made jobless by the pandemic, aid for state and local governments and funding for schools and food support programs.

The Democratic-controlled House in May passed a $3.4 trillion coronavirus relief bill but Pelosi offered to reduce that sum by $1 trillion. The White House, which had proposed $1 trillion in aid, rejected the offer. Democrats have since demanded repeatedly that the White House agree to "meet in the middle".

The Pelosi-Meadows phone call came hours before Trump was due to accept his party's nomination Thursday evening.

Some Democrats have said they did not expect the White House to resume negotiations in earnest until after this week's Republican National Convention.

On Wednesday, Meadows said in an interview with Politico that he was not optimistic negotiations would resume soon.

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