Tue | Sep 29, 2020

For Americans waiting on virus aid, no new relief in sight

Published:Thursday | August 13, 2020 | 5:03 PM
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (AP) — With talks on emergency coronavirus aid having stalled out, both sides played the blame game Thursday rather than make any serious moves to try to break their stalemate. Official Washington is emptying, national politics is consuming the airwaves and the chasm between the warring sides appears too great for now.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pressed the case for funding for the US Postal Service, rental assistance, food aid and rapid testing for the virus at her weekly press event, blasting Republicans as not giving a damn and declaring flatly that “people will die” if the delay grinds into September.

“Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gave a damn,” Pelosi said when asked if she should accept a smaller COVID-19 rescue package rather than endure weeks of possible gridlock. “That isn’t the case.”

All of the chief combatants have exited Washington after a several-day display of staying put as to not get blamed for abandoning the talks.

The political risk for President Donald Trump is continued pain in US households and a struggling economy — both of which promise to hurt him in the September campaign. For Democrats, there is genuine disappointment at being unable to deliver a deal but apparent comfort in holding firm for a sweeping measure instead of the few pieces that Trump wants most.

A modest Trump administration overture on Wednesday generated nothing but stepped-up carping and accusations of bad faith.

“It’s a stalemate,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Thursday.

Across a nearly empty Capitol, the Senate’s top Republican sought to cast the blame on Pelosi, whose ambitious demands have frustrated administration negotiators like White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

“They are still rejecting any more relief for anyone unless they get a flood of demands with no real relationship to COVID-19,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell has kept the talks at arm’s length, nursing deep divisions among Republicans on the topic — and assorted pieces — of the foundering relief measure.

Among the items lost is perhaps $10 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service to help improve service as its role in the fall election takes on greater importance, given an expected surge in mail voting because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump is against $3.4 billion demanded by Pelosi for helping states with the crush of mail-in ballots.

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