U.S. House Speaker Pelosi to meet with top U.S. airline CEOs

By David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi will speak on Friday afternoon with the chief executives of top U.S. airlines, who are urging Congress to approve another $25 billion in assistance to keep tens of thousands of U.S. workers on the payroll past Sept. 30, sources said.

Pelosi and House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio are expected to hold a 2:45 p.m. EDT (1845 GMT) call with the chief executives of United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines and others, a Democratic aide told Reuters.

In an interview with NBC’s “Today Show” on Friday, American Chief Executive Doug Parker urged lawmakers to “come together and get it done. … We just need people to do what’s right. I know we’re better than this, and our people deserve better.”

At the end of this month, the $25 billion in federal payroll assistance airlines received when the coronavirus first began spreading around the world is set to expire.

Airlines and unions are now pleading for a six-month extension as part of a bipartisan proposal for another $1.5 trillion in coronavirus relief, while simultaneously negotiating with employees to minimize thousands of job cuts that are expected without another round of aid.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows met with major airline chief executives on Thursday. He said President Donald Trump is also open to a stand-alone measure to aid airlines, though congressional aides say that is unlikely to win support given aid requests from so many other struggling industries.

American has said it plans to end service to 15 small communities without additional government assistance and furlough about 19,000 workers.

Air travel has plummeted over the last six months as the coronavirus pandemic has claimed nearly 196,000 American lives and prompted many to avoid airports and planes, seriously depressing airline revenues.

Congress also set aside another $25 billion in government loans for airlines, but many have opted not to tap that funding source.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Bipartisan U.S. lawmaker group to unveil $1.5 trillion COVID-19 aid bill

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of 50 Democratic and Republican members of Congress is due to unveil $1.5 trillion bipartisan coronavirus relief legislation on Tuesday, in an election year effort to break a month-long impasse in COVID-19 talks between the White House and top Democrats.

The Problem Solvers Caucus, which includes members of both parties in the House of Representatives, was set to outline the legislative package at an 11 a.m. (1500 GMT) press conference at the U.S. Capitol.

The group, which says it has been working to find common ground on coronavirus relief for the past six weeks, agreed on the measure just before House lawmakers returned to Washington from a summer recess on Monday.

“This is just a framework to hopefully get the negotiators back to the table,” U.S. Representative Josh Gottheimer, the group’s Democratic co-chairman, told CNBC.

The proposal includes another round of direct checks to Americans, $500 billion for state and local governments and jobless benefits, with spending lasting beyond next January’s presidential inauguration, a source familiar with the plan said.

With less than two months to go before the Nov. 3 election, there is growing anxiety among lawmakers about the inability of Congress and President Donald Trump’s White House to agree on a package to deliver relief to millions of Americans and an economy reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

Talks between the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer broke down in early August and the two sides remain nearly $900 billion apart. But Pelosi and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in recent days have both signaled a willingness to keep talking.

White House adviser Jared Kushner on Tuesday separately told CNBC he hoped a deal could be reached but that it might not happen until after the election.

Trump on Tuesday also cited the need for more funding but sought to cast blame on the House Democratic leader, telling Fox News in an interview: “We could use additional stimulus, but Nancy Pelosi won’t approve it because she thinks it’s bad for me in the election.”

Democrats, who control the House, passed their $3.4 trillion package in mid-May. They later said they would accept $2.2 trillion in spending, while the White House signaled a willingness to accept $1.3 trillion.

Republican congressional leaders have not participated in the discussions. The Republican-controlled Senate failed to pass a $300 billion coronavirus bill that Senate Democrats called inadequate. A slimmed-down version of an earlier $1 trillion Republican measure also failed.

(Reporting by David Morgan; additional reporting by by Susan Heavey; Editing Bernadette Baum and Steve Orlofsky)

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Pelosi wants COVID-19 deal ‘now’

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Democrats in Congress are willing to cut their coronavirus relief bill in half to get an agreement on new legislation.

“We have to try to come to that agreement now,” Pelosi said in an online interview with Politico. “We’re willing to cut our bill in half to meet the needs right now.”

A senior House Democratic aide said Pelosi was reiterating a standing call by Democrats for the White House and Republicans to meet them “half way” on coronavirus relief.

The Democratic-led House passed legislation with more than $3 trillion in relief in May. Democrats offered this month to reduce that sum by $1 trillion, but the White House rejected it.

Mass testing in UK

Britain plans to bring in regular, population-wide testing for the novel coronavirus so it can suppress its spread and limit restrictions that have crippled one of the worst-hit countries in the world.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government was carrying out trials of a range of new, faster tests that can give instant results and hoped to roll them out towards the end of the year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has been heavily criticized for its handling of the pandemic, with critics saying it was too slow to go into lockdown and too slow to roll out testing to know how far the virus had spread.

Church outbreaks spread in South Korea

South Korea reported its highest daily rise in novel coronavirus cases since early March as outbreaks from churches around the capital spread, prompting a warning of a nationwide wave of infections.

The 297 new infections mark the sixth straight day of triple-digit increases in a country that has managed to blunt several previous outbreaks.

At least 166 of the new infections are linked to the Sarang Jeil Church, taking the number of cases from it to 623.

Some members of the church, which is run by a radical conservative preacher, are reluctant to come forward and get tested, or to self-isolate, officials have said.

Part of NZ lockdown illegal

A New Zealand court found the first nine days of a hard lockdown put in place by the government this year requiring people to isolate at home was justified, but unlawful, as an order imposing stay-at-home restrictions was not passed until April 3.

“In the end, the measures taken by the government worked to eliminate COVID-19, save lives and minimize damage to our economy,” Attorney General David Parker said after the ruling.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday she would increase the number of defense personnel at quarantine facilities and borders to beat any spread of the virus, as five new cases in the community were reported.

A warning from the Pope

Rich countries should not hoard a coronavirus vaccine and should only give pandemic-related bailouts to companies committed to protecting the environment, helping the most needy and the “common good”, Pope Francis said on Wednesday.

“It would be sad if the rich are given priority for the COVID-19 vaccine. It would be sad if the vaccine becomes property of this or that nation, if it is not universal and for everyone,” Francis said at his weekly general audience.

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that any nation that hoards possible vaccines while excluding others would deepen the pandemic.

“The pandemic is a crisis and one never exits from a crisis returning to the way it was before,” Francis said.

(Compiled by Linda Noakes and Karishma Singh; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Mnuchin declines to say if U.S. COVID-19 aid deal can be reached

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that the White House and top Democrats in Congress may not be able to reach a deal on coronavirus aid, in the fifth day without talks on the stalemate blocking relief to tens of millions of Americans.

Mnuchin, who spent nearly two weeks trying to broker a deal in talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, also described the potential outcome of negotiations in terms of President Donald Trump’s reelection prospects.

“I can’t speculate. If the Democrats are willing to be reasonable, there’s a compromise. If the Democrats are focused on politics and don’t want to do anything that’s going to succeed for the president, there won’t be a deal,” he told Fox Business Network in an interview.

Schumer accused Republicans of refusing to meet in the middle, after Democrats offered to agree on midpoint between Senate Republicans $1 trillion offer and the $3 trillion measure passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives in May. Mnuchin on Wednesday again dismissed the Democrats’ offer as “ridiculous.”

The impasse, which began last Friday when talks broke down without an agreement, has put U.S. investors on edge with more than 5.16 million COVID-19 cases in the United States.

The global pandemic has taken a particularly heavy toll on the United States, where it has killed more than 164,000 people, more than any other country.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and David Morgan; Editing by Toby Chopra and Chizu Nomiyama)

Trump signs coronavirus relief orders after talks with Congress break down

By Jeff Mason

BEDMINSTER, N.J. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump signed executive orders on Saturday partly restoring enhanced unemployment payments to the tens of millions of Americans who lost jobs in the coronavirus pandemic, as the United States marked a grim milestone of 5 million cases.

Negotiations broke down this week between the White House and top Democrats in Congress over how best to help Americans cope with the heavy human and economic toll of the crisis, which has killed more than 160,000 people across the country.

Trump said the orders would provide an extra $400 per week in unemployment payments, less than the $600 per week passed earlier in the crisis. Some of the measures were likely to face legal challenges, as the U.S. Constitution gives Congress authority over federal spending.

“This is the money they need, this is the money they want, this gives them an incentive to go back to work,” the Republican president said of the lower payments. He said 25% of it would be paid by states, whose budgets have been hard hit by the crisis.

Republicans have argued that higher payments were a disincentive for unemployed Americans to try to return to work, though economists, including Federal Reserve officials, disputed that assertion.

Trump’s move to take relief measures out of the hands of Congress drew immediate criticism from some Democrats.

“Donald Trump is trying to distract from his failure to extend the $600 federal boost for 30 million unemployed workers by issuing illegal executive orders,” said Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. “This scheme is a classic Donald Trump con: playacting at leadership while robbing people of the support they desperately need.”

The Democratic-majority House of Representatives passed a coronavirus support package in May which the Republican-led Senate ignored.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called the orders a “series of half-baked measures” and accused Trump of putting Social Security “at grave risk” by delaying the collection of payroll taxes that pay for the program.

Trump also said he was suspending collection of payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security and other federal programs, an idea that he has repeatedly raised but has been rejected by both parties in Congress. He said the suspension would apply to people making less than $100,000 per year.

His orders would also stop evictions from rental housing that has federal financial backing and extend zero percent interest on federally financed student loans.

Trump initially played down the disease’s threat and has drawn criticism for inconsistent messages on public health steps such as social distancing and masks.

He spoke to reporters on Saturday at his New Jersey golf club, in a room that featured a crowd of cheering supporters.

FAR APART

Nearly two weeks of talks between White House officials and congressional Democrats ended on Friday with the two sides still about $2 trillion apart.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had pushed to extend the enhanced unemployment payments, which expired at the end of July, at the previous rate of $600 as well as to provide more financial support for city and state governments battered by the crisis.

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday offered to reduce the $3.4 trillion coronavirus aid package that the House passed in May by nearly a third if Republicans would agree to more than double their $1 trillion counteroffer.

White House negotiators Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows rejected the offer.

The $1 trillion package that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled late last month ran into immediate opposition from his own party, with as many as 20 of the Senate’s 53 Republicans expected to oppose it.

Trump did not rule out a return to negotiations with Congress.

“I’m not saying they’re not going to come back and negotiate,” he said on Saturday. “Hopefully, we can do something with them at a later date.”

Democrats have already warned that such executive orders are legally dubious and would likely be challenged in court, but a court fight could take months.

Trump has managed to sidestep Congress on spending before, declaring a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border to shift billions of dollars from the defense budget to pay for a wall he promised during his 2016 election campaign.

Congress passed legislation to stop him, but there were too few votes in the Republican-controlled Senate to override his veto – a scenario that would likely play out again with less than 90 days to go before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason, additional reporting by Raphael Satter, Brad Brooks, and Rich McKay; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Diane Craft, Daniel Wallis, Jonathan Oatis and Sonya Hepinstall)

Democrats offer to cut $1 trillion from coronavirus plan, White House says no

By Richard Cowan and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats in Congress said on Friday they had offered to reduce a proposed coronavirus aid package by a trillion dollars if Republicans would add a trillion to their counter-offer, but the idea was flatly rejected by Donald Trump’s White House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi disclosed the offer as she and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer prepared to meet White House negotiators again on Friday afternoon.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, one of the White House negotiators, rejected Pelosi’s proposal out of hand, telling reporters, “that’s a non-starter.”

After nearly two weeks of talks that have failed to make substantial progress, the Republican president has threatened to pull his negotiators out and instead issue executive orders to address the human and economic toll of a crisis that has killed more than 160,000 Americans and thrown tens of millions of people out of work.

It was unclear how much any president could do by executive order. At a news conference, Schumer said the president could not order any new money spent – as that is the power of Congress – but could only defer costs until they were eventually paid.

Democrats have advocated for a $3 trillion-plus economic aid program, while leading Republicans have proposed about a third of that.

“Yesterday I offered to them, we’ll take down a trillion if you add a trillion in,” Pelosi said. “They said absolutely not.”

She said she would make the offer again at an afternoon negotiating session with Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. “We’ve got a responsibility to find common ground,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi said the proposed $1 trillion cut in Democrats’ plan would mean the aid would run out sooner.

Schumer said the White House would have to compromise with Democrats, because they need Democratic votes to get anything passed by Congress. “They can’t just say no,” he said.

“Their other choice is to do some weak insufficient executive orders that wont do the job for the people we want to help,” Schumer said.

Pelosi said Democrats want the biggest possible number for reviving an expired federal payment to the unemployed that had been $600 a week. Renewing that benefit has been a leading Democratic demand.

The White House at one point suggested $400 a week in federal benefits for the unemployed, but Democrats rejected it and have refused to do a separate deal on that, saying they wanted a comprehensive package that also included money for state and local government and other matters.

Congress passed more than $3 trillion in relief legislation early in the pandemic. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said a new boost is needed to help the U.S. economy, but some of his fellow Republicans oppose doing anything more.

Pelosi and Schumer have pushed for a comprehensive package of assistance for the unemployed, the poor, hospitals, schools, and state and local governments.

(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Lisa Lambert and David Morgan; Writing by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller)

New U.S. Postal Service chief warns of ‘dire’ finances as quarterly loss narrows

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The head of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) on Friday said the agency faces a “dire” financial position even as it posted a slightly narrower third-quarter loss amid soaring package demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said USPS has a “broken business model” and is in need of organizational changes. “Without dramatic change, there is no end in sight and we face an impending liquidity crisis,” DeJoy said.

USPS said quarterly revenue rose to $17.6 billion, up $547 million. The quarterly net loss shrank to $2.2 billion from $2.3 billion in the same quarter last year.

First-class mail volume declined by 1.1 billion pieces, or 8.4%. Shipping and packages revenue increased by $2.9 billion, or 53.6%, on a volume increase of 708 million pieces, up 49.9%.

Democrats Thursday called on DeJoy to reverse changes that they say are resulting in delayed mail.

“We believe these changes, made during the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic, now threaten the timely delivery of mail—including medicines for seniors, paychecks for workers, and absentee ballots for voters—that is essential to millions of Americans,” wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

Voting by mail is expected to increase dramatically this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has claimed without evidence that absentee voting leads to rampant fraud.

“We are not slowing down election mail or any other mail,” DeJoy, a Trump supporter, said Friday.

The Postal Service has faced financial woes with the rise of email and social media, and a measure passed in 2006 requiring it to pre-fund 75 years of retiree health benefits over the span of 10 years at a cost of more than $100 billion.

DeJoy said the Postal Service is eliminating inefficiencies, including “unnecessary overtime.” The Postal Service has lost $80 billion since 2007.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Explainer: Trump wants to bypass U.S. coronavirus aid talks with executive order. Can he?

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With congressional Democrats and White House negotiators so far unable to agree on a deal to salve the heavy economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump has threatened to bypass Congress with an executive order.

Some of his proposals exceed his legal authority and would face immediate legal challenges, though in at least one case House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the nation’s top Democrat, told him to just go ahead.

WHAT DOES TRUMP WANT TO DO?

Trump said on Twitter he is considering executive orders to continue expanded unemployment benefits, reinstate a moratorium on evictions, cut payroll taxes and continue a suspension of student loan repayments amid a health crisis that has killed nearly 160,000 Americans.

He and administration officials negotiating with Congress have not provided specifics.

CAN HE DO IT?

The Constitution puts control of federal spending in the hands of Congress, not the president, so Trump does not have the legal authority to issue executive orders determining how money should be spent on coronavirus.

Democrats said executive orders would prompt a court fight, but legal action could take months.

Trump has sidestepped Congress on spending before. In 2019, he declared a national emergency at the border with Mexico to shift billions of dollars from the Pentagon budget to help pay for a promised wall that was the cornerstone of his 2016 election campaign.

Congress passed legislation to stop him, but there were too few votes in the Republican-controlled Senate to override his veto.

“There has to be a political will to do that and there has to be a priority given by members of Congress to assert their institutional interests,” said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in Virginia. “And that just isn’t there right now.”

WOULD DEMOCRATS OR REPUBLICANS OBJECT?

The $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefit in the massive “Cares Act” passed in March has been a major sticking point in negotiations. Democrats want to continue the federal payment, which expired on July 24, to the tens of millions who have lost their jobs in the crisis and have rejected a short-term extension. Trump’s fellow Republicans have argued that is too high a payment, contending it is a disincentive to work.

The moratorium on evictions was less contentious, and could be covered by reprogramming money that Congress has already approved for housing that has not been spent. Pelosi on Thursday said an order extending the moratorium “would be a good thing.”

Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike reject cutting the payroll tax, which is collected from both employers and employees to fund Social Security and Medicare. A cut would disproportionately benefit Americans with high salaries, and threaten funding for the popular programs for retirees. It also only benefits people still getting paychecks, not those who have lost their jobs.

The parties are closer together on student loans. Democrats included a 12-month extension of the student loan payment suspension in a relief bill the House passed in May. Republican senators did not include student loan relief in the proposal they unveiled in July. However, there is a Republican plan in Congress to extend the suspension for three months.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Scott Malone and Nick Zieminski)

McConnell says U.S. needs ‘another boost’ as coronavirus relief talks continue

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday said the U.S. economy needs an “additional boost” to cope with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, as his Democratic counterparts and White House officials try to hash out a next wave of relief.

As talks neared the end of their second week, the four principal negotiators – a group that does not include McConnell – appeared to be near agreement on some topics, but still trillions of dollars apart on major issues including the size of a federal benefit for tens of millions of unemployed workers.

McConnell said he agreed with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that agreement is needed on another aid package, even though some of his fellow Republicans in the Senate do not think so.

“I think we need an additional agreement,” the Republican Senate leader told CNBC, adding “the economy does need an additional boost.” Nonpartisan analysts say McConnell’s Republicans face a risk of losing their Senate majority in November’s elections.

McConnell continued to insist that unemployment benefits in any deal should be adjusted downward and that the agreement should include liability protections against lawsuits for reopening businesses during the pandemic.

Mnuchin was due to join fellow Republican Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and the two top congressional Democrats, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, for talks on Capitol Hill at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT).

Others not in the negotiation room considered their own actions, as Republican senators said they had been told that no deal by Friday would mean no deal at all.

Republican President Donald Trump stood ready to use executive orders to address issues such as unemployment benefits and protections against evictions if talks failed, according to Meadows.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio told reporters that the Senate on Thursday could also take up a new version of the Payroll Protection Program that provides financial assistance to small businesses in the form of forgivable loans.

Congress passed more than $3 trillion in relief legislation early in the pandemic. But lawmakers missed a deadline last week to extend the $600 per week in enhanced unemployment payments that played a key role in propping up the economy.

Pelosi and Schumer have pushed for a comprehensive package of assistance for the unemployed, the poor, hospitals, schools and state and local governments.

“The leader and I are determined that we will come to agreement. But it has to meet the needs of the American people,” Pelosi said.

Mnuchin has warned that the Trump administration would not accept “anything close” to the $3.4 trillion in new aid sought by Democrats. Senate Republicans have proposed a $1 trillion package that many of their own members have rejected.

Coronavirus talks in Congress face timeline as Trump ponders his own action

By Patricia Zengerle and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressional Democratic leaders and White House officials were set to resume negotiations on coronavirus relief legislation on Wednesday, with the administration officials aiming for an agreement by Friday.

After more than a week of talks and few signs of progress, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer were said to be aiming for a deal that could be passed by Congress next week.

“Obviously, we’re up against a deadline now. But as you know from experience around here, that’s about the only way,” Senator John Thune, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, told reporters.

Indeed, negotiators have already blown past one deadline: last Friday, when enhanced unemployment payments of $600 a week expired for the tens of millions of Americans who have lost their jobs in the pandemic.

Mnuchin said late on Tuesday that the two sides were trying to reach an overall agreement by the end of this week.

But Pelosi said on Wednesday that the timeline would depend on the course of the negotiations.

“The timetable really relates to the progress we make. How big will the bill be and how long will it last? Those are the questions,” the Democratic congresswoman told MSNBC.

In the meantime, Republican President Donald Trump said he was still considering unilateral action to stimulate the economy by allowing taxpayers to defer payroll tax payments.

“Well, I may do it myself,” he said in an interview with Fox News. “I have the right to suspend it, and I may do it myself – I have the absolute right to suspend the payroll.”

An earlier Trump demand for a payroll tax cut gained no traction among lawmakers of either party in Congress.

POSTAL WOES

Trump’s newly installed Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, was also due to provide Democrats with a briefing, amid worries about delays in Postal Service deliveries and the potential impact on the Nov. 3 elections, which could see record numbers of mail-in ballots as many voters fear casting votes in person could expose them to the coronavirus.

“We must resolve those in a way that allows mail to be delivered on time for the election and for the necessities that people need,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

To illustrate the scale of mail-in voting expected, a Monmouth University poll found that 40% of Iowa voters are very likely to vote by mail in the general election, while another 17% are somewhat likely to do so.

Despite some progress in coronavirus legislation talks, both sides remain far apart on a range of issues.

Mnuchin warned that the Trump administration would not accept “anything close” to the $3.4 trillion in new aid that Democrats were seeking. But he offered to extend through the end of the year an expired moratorium on evictions of people unable to pay their rent.

Schumer accused Republicans of failing to grasp the severity of the pandemic, which has killed more than 157,000 people in the United States.

“There must be a relief package commensurate with the size of this historic challenge,” the New York Democrat said.

Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, the chamber’s top Republican, who has not joined the negotiations, blamed Schumer and Pelosi for the lack of a deal: “Democratic leaders have moved about one inch, one inch in eight days.”

In May, the Democratic-controlled House passed a $3 trillion aid bill that included around $1 trillion to help state and local governments that have revenue shortfalls because of the huge slowdown in economic activity related to the pandemic.

McConnell has offered a $1 trillion proposal that would significantly reduce an “enhanced” jobless benefit that expired on Friday.

Both sides say they support another round of direct payments to further help stimulate the economy and keep people afloat amid massive unemployment.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan, Writing by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)