WASHINGTON >> Republicans stumbled on Thursday in their efforts to find agreement on a broad new proposal to lift the struggling economy, with Senate leaders and the Trump administration at odds over multiple provisions, including how to extend unemployment benefits and White House requests for spending unrelated to the pandemic.
Even after President Donald Trump folded on one of his key demands, for a payroll tax cut, negotiations bogged down over details of the package, including how to reduce the amount of money that Americans are currently receiving as unemployment benefits.
Senate Republican leaders and administration officials were also discussing a push from the White House for money to rebuild the FBI headquarters in Washington, long a preoccupation of the president, whose hotel is nearby on Pennsylvania Avenue, according to two people familiar with the talks.
Talks had reached consensus on several other fronts, including dropping Trump’s proposed payroll tax cut — an idea that had little support in either party on Capitol Hill — and providing additional loans to help small businesses endure the crisis.
The snag in negotiations delayed until Monday the rollout of what will effectively be Republicans’ opening bid in negotiations with congressional Democrats over a new stimulus package. Republicans have said they would support a package of around $1 trillion for this round of stimulus, while Democrats are demanding $3 trillion.
Thursday’s intramural squabbling among Republicans only increased the likelihood that Congress and Trump will fail to reach a deal before the supplemental benefit of $600 per week for unemployed Americans expires at month’s end. Failure to extend the supplemental benefit would result in sudden income losses for millions of people.
Administration negotiators had proclaimed in the morning that an agreement was close at hand. Lobbyists circulated an outline of what was in it.
But Thursday ended without the release of legislative text. Lawmakers and aides sketched out the broad contours of a deal, with the persistent caveat that nothing was yet final.