The Senate adjourned on Thursday until September 8, the day after Labor Day, without reaching a deal for the next round of coronavirus relief legislation.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated that Democrats would pare down their $3 trillion relief bill to $2 trillion if Republicans were willing to compromise and boost their $1 trillion bill up to $2 trillion.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that if lawmakers reach an agreement while the Senate is adjourned, they will come back to Washington to vote on a relief package.
The expanded unemployment benefits Congress passed in March when lockdown measures were first implemented expired at the end of July, leaving millions of Americans who were thrown out of work without the extra $600 a week the CARES Act provided. Democrats have pushed for extending the increased benefits, while Republicans have argued that they should be lowered, noting that some workers are receiving more in jobless benefits than they were making at work.
Another sticking point is funding for the flailing Post Office, which President Trump said Thursday that he is blocking because Democrats want it to bolster universal mail-in voting, which Trump has said would be a breeding ground for election fraud.
Democratic lawmakers want $25 billion in funding for the Post Office as well as $3.5 billion for mail-in ballots, Trump said.
“Now, they need that money in order to have the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” the president said. “Those are just two items, but if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped to have it.”
Other economic relief measures have also expired, including a federal eviction moratorium.
Over the weekend, Trump took several executive actions intended to provide economic relief for Americans in the absence of a legislative solution from Congress, a move that sparked criticism from at least one Republican, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
Sasse was the first Republican to criticize the president’s executive orders on coronavirus relief, calling them “unconstitutional slop.” The orders, which came after negotiations between lawmakers stalled, included extending the expanded unemployment benefits Congress approved in March, deferring payroll taxes, as well as providing rent and student loan payment assistance.