Trump pushes for short-term fix on unemployment insurance, eviction moratorium

WASHINGTON — President Trump called for a quick fix Wednesday to address expiring unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions, saying the other parts of the GOP’s $1 trillion relief bill can wait.

‘‘The rest of it, we’re so far apart, we don’t care, we really don’t care,’’ Trump told reporters outside the White House, referring to divisions between the two parties.

Democrats repeatedly have rejected the idea of a piecemeal approach that would involve a stand-alone unemployment insurance bill. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has not embraced the idea either, insisting any bill must include a five-year liability shield for businesses, health care providers, and others — a nonstarter for Democrats.


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking alongside Trump, said the two sides were ‘‘very far apart.’’

‘‘We’re looking at a deadline, obviously, of this Friday,’’ Mnuchin said. ‘‘The president’s very focused on evictions and unemployment, and if we can’t reach an agreement by then, the president wants to look at giving us more time to negotiate.’’

Trump added: ‘‘We’re focused on those two things. We want to take care of them now. The rest we can discuss later.’’

More than 20 million Americans remain unemployed and have been receiving a $600 weekly emergency unemployment payment that Congress approved in March, on top of whatever benefit their state offers. That federal benefit runs out Friday.

Democrats want to extend the payment at its current level. The Senate GOP bill released Monday proposes cutting it to $200 weekly until states can phase in a new system that would aim to replace 70 percent of a worker’s wages before unemployment.

Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, rejected Trump’s suggestion, noting via Twitter on Wednesday that House Democrats passed comprehensive coronavirus relief legislation in May that addressed the eviction issue. McConnell ignored the House Democratic bill and waited until last week to start negotiations on a new one.


‘‘Republicans have dithered for the ten weeks since we passed the #HeroesAct. Renters & landlords alike want payment assistance & that can only happen in a comprehensive bill,’’ Hammill said. ‘‘Piecemeal approach is a waste of time.’’

Democrats want to spend three times more than Republicans on the overall bill, expected to be Congress’s last major coronavirus relief bill before the November election. Initial talks have been rocky, and a deal looks elusive. Even if there is one, it seems certain that it cannot be reached before Friday.

Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows met with Pelosi and Senate minority leader Charles Schumer on Monday and Tuesday, and another meeting was expected Wednesday.

McConnell is leaving negotiations with Democrats to the Trump administration officials. The whole process has been overtaken by bitter partisanship, which was on display on the Senate floor Wednesday morning as McConnell and Schumer traded insults.

McConnell accused Democrats of adopting a ‘‘completely unhinged position’’ in insisting on continuing the $600 weekly emergency unemployment benefits. Republicans say that such generous payments act as a disincentive for people to return to the workforce, since in many cases they can make more on unemployment.

McConnell said Pelosi will ‘‘just refuse to legislate until the election and wish American families good luck dealing with the pandemic.’’

Schumer denounced those comments in his own floor speech a short time later.

‘‘This absurd, nasty insinuation by the Republican leader doesn’t pass the laugh test,’’ Schumer said. ‘‘The fact that leader McConnell would even consider the idea that a political party might deny support for the American people in order to help win an election says more about the Republican leader than anybody else.’’


Trump pushed for the extension of the eviction moratorium although the GOP legislation released by McConnell did not include it. The eviction moratorium provision, which was passed as part of the Cares Act in March, shielded 12 million renters nationwide from eviction — but it expired on Friday. House Democrats have pushed for it to be extended.

Trump also said Wednesday he would continue to demand nearly $1.8 billion for a new FBI building at its present site, near his hotel in downtown Washington.

McConnell and multiple other Republicans have said they oppose including the FBI headquarters provision.

‘‘Then Republicans should go back to school and learn. They need a new building . . . and we can do it very easily,’’ Trump said.

Congress passed four bipartisan bills in March and April, injecting about $3 trillion into the economy as the coronavirus began its deadly and economically devastating march across the country.

At the time, lawmakers hoped the pandemic would die down; instead it has been spiking in many places, with the death toll from the virus in the United States reaching 150,000.