WASHINGTON (AP) — A deadlocked Senate on Thursday left Washington for the weekend without extending a $600-per-week expanded jobless benefit that has helped keep both families and the economy afloat as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on the country.
Friday’s expiration of the $600 jobless benefit sent Republicans controlling the Senate scrambling to respond. Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell made a procedural move to make it easier to reach a potential compromise next week that would extend the bonus unemployment benefit while talks on a broader COVID-19 relief measure grind on. But ahead of late-night talks at the Capitol, the outlook dimmed.
“I’m not very optimistic that we will have any kind of an agreement on a comprehensive bill in the near future,” said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. He said he even doubted a deal could be struck next week.
But Democrats have so far rejected a piecemeal approach, saying the next relief bill needs to move as a complete package. Any short-term jobless benefits extension of less than $600 per week is likely to be a nonstarter with them.
Talks on the relief bill are at a standstill with few reasons for optimism despite sweeping agreement among Washington’s top power players that Congress must pass further relief in coming days and weeks.
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