- The Washington Times - Monday, August 3, 2020

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise on Monday said Democrats and Republicans remain “very far apart” on what both sides want to see in the next round of coronavirus relief legislation.

“Clearly, we’re very far apart,” Mr. Scalise, Louisiana Republican, said on “Fox & Friends.” “Our focus has always been on helping people get back on their feet, helping schools and businesses safely reopen.”

He said Democrats want to spend around $1 trillion to “bail out states that were failing before COVID.”

“You’re talking about mailing ballots to people illegally on voter rolls — what does that have to do with COVID?” he said. “Very big difference between the sides.”

Mr. Scalise also said there is more than $500 billion in previously-authorized relief that has yet to be spent.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Sunday he is not optimistic there will be a deal in the “very near term,” though both sides indicated that weekend talks were relatively productive.

The key issue for the moment is a $600-per-week boost in unemployment checks that expired on Friday.

Democrats are pushing a $3 trillion-plus package the House passed in May that would extend the full benefits through January.

Mr. Scalise described that package, which also included provisions on marijuana and immigration, as the “no liberal cause left behind act.”

Senate Republicans have pushed an unemployment benefits extension at a lower $200-per-week level until states can pay people 70% of lost wages.

Democrats have also rebuffed overtures from the White House and congressional Republicans for a shorter-term extension of the full $600-per-week additional benefit.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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