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White House optimistic on prospects for new stimulus

US President Donald Trump's administration opposes Democrats' demand for a trillion dollars to help state and local governments facing severe financial hardship because of the pandemic - MANDEL NGAN / ©AFP
US President Donald Trump's administration opposes Democrats' demand for a trillion dollars to help state and local governments facing severe financial hardship because of the pandemic - MANDEL NGAN / ©AFP

(AFP)

President Donald Trump’s chief of staff said Tuesday he is optimistic that Republicans and Democrats in Congress will reach agreement on a new pandemic emergency aid bill before the November 3 election.

However, Mark Meadows told Fox Business the president continues to oppose the massive aid to state and local governments that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing for to help recover from the coronavirus crisis.

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“I’m more optimistic perhaps today than I’ve been in a long time,” Meadows said. “I can tell you that there’s more that we agree upon than what we disagree upon, and I think it’s time that we put politics aside, pass this stimulus.”

The world’s largest economy is facing the world’s worst Covid-19 outbreak, with the death toll just shy of 190,000.

After key provisions of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act expired at the end of July, including expanded unemployment benefits, economists and officials at the Federal Reserve have said more government aid will be needed to help American families weather the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, which has destroyed tens of millions of jobs.

While the unemployment rate in August fell to 8.4 percent, data and Fed surveys show job gains and the overall recovery are slowing as the virus continues to spread.

In May, Pelosi led the House to approve a $3 trillion stimulus package, but it has languished in the Senate, and weeks of negotiations between the Democratic leadership and the White House hit an impasse, especially over the need to aid state and local governments to prevent a massive wave of layoffs.

Meadows called that issue the main “stumbling block” in the talks, saying the nearly $1 trillion that Pelosi has called for “is just not supported by the facts.” 

Instead the administration aims to provide “targeted relief to those people that need it most,” and there is “a groundswell of support” for some kind of compromise, Meadows said.

“I’m optimistic in the next two weeks that the pressure and the voice of the American people will start to have an impact on members of Congress.”

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