Congress, White House at loggerheads about unemployment benefits that expired Last night.

By Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

With at least 14 million Americans unemployed, Congress and the White House failed on Thursday night to reach agreement, either temporary or longer-term, to extend federal jobless benefits that expire tonight.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) spurned multiple offers from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows as negotiators remain far apart on a comprehensive deal. Among the offers made were a seven-day extension of the $600 weekly unemployment insurance provision, and another that would have coupled the temporary extension with eviction protections that also expire today. The two provisions were part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that Congress approved in March (The Hill).

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Meadows said the offers “were not received warmly.” Minutes later, Pelosi said a temporary benefits extension of existing law is “worthless” without significant bipartisan progress toward the overarching goal of a new relief package.

“One-week extension is good if you have a bill and you’re working it out, the details, the writing of it. … That’s what a one-week extension is about,” Pelosi said. “It’s worthless unless you are using it for a purpose” (Bloomberg News).

Schumer derided the GOP approach after a day of more posturing, which included multiple unanimous consent requests by GOP senators that were denied, along with one by Senate Democrats on the $3 trillion HEROES Act the House passed in May.

“We just don’t think they really understand the gravity of the problem,” Schumer told reporters Thursday night. “We want to solve this and they want to do one small thing that won’t solve the problem” (The Washington Post).

The two sides are expected to speak again by phone today and meet in person once again over the weekend (The New York Times).

The Hill: Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock.

Thursday’s offers capped off a week that yielded little progress toward a bill and was filled with internal divisions among Republicans, giving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a weakened hand as the administration took the lead for the GOP. In their initial proposal, Republicans sought to roll back the expiring $600 weekly unemployment payments to $200 per week for millions of recipients.

The Washington Post: Senate Republicans, White House scramble on unemployment insurance as deadline looms.

The New York Times: With jobless aid set to lapse, lawmakers fail to agree on extension.

Lewis funeral: Former President Obama on Thursday endorsed an end to the Senate filibuster rule, calling it a “Jim Crow relic.” The former senator reopened a long-simmering conversation among Democrats about how to pass legislation that would restore a key provision of the Voting Rights Act swept away by the Supreme Court in 2013. The argument is that the strategic reliance on the 60-vote threshold in the narrowly divided Senate denies opportunities to adopt bills with the assent of a simple majority of the chamber.

Marc Fisher, The Washington Post: Three presidents embrace the struggle for rights.

Obama made the comments during his eulogy of the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon, marking the most extensive public remarks the former president has made on the topic, which also come just over three months before a general election where Democrats are hopeful of retaking the upper chamber.

“Once we pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we should keep marching,” Obama said. “And if all this takes eliminating the filibuster — another Jim Crow relic — in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that’s what we should do” (The Hill).

If former Vice President Joe Biden wins in November, and Senate Democrats move to nuke the filibuster to pass legislation with 51 votes, they will likely need to attain at least 54 seats to take care of Obama’s wish. As of November, three Democratic senators — Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) — vowed that they will keep the 60-vote threshold intact.

As for Biden, a 36-year member of the Senate before becoming vice president, he has not supported the elimination of the filibuster. In a statement, Andrew Bates, a Biden spokesman, declined to comment specifically on Biden’s stance.

“Congressional Republicans should turn their praise of Rep. Lewis into action and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act today by voice vote. No filibuster, no delay,” Bates told The Hill.

The Hill: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) calls for the end of the filibuster following Obama’s remarks.

CNN: Michael Jordan, Jordan Brand donate $2.5 million to three organizations to combat Black voter suppression.

 

Campaign finance: The House Ethics Committee recommended sanctions for campaign finance violations by Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.). The negotiated punishment of a reprimand and $50,000 fine was accepted on Thursday by the congressman, whose seat is considered vulnerable this year (The Hill).

Trump talk: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) spoke by phone with Trump on Wednesday night while sitting in a Washington restaurant. The 85-year-old senator, holding his phone to his ear, had his device on speaker. The president’s comments were heard by other diners and recorded. Among topics on Trump’s mind: Preserving Confederate statues, monuments and Robert E. Lee’s name and handling issues surrounding a controversial nominee for a top Pentagon policy job (whose confirmation hearing was abruptly postponed on Thursday) (The New York Times).

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