Progress slow as urgency grows on virus relief legislation

WASHINGTON (AP) – Frustrated Senate Republicans in the United States (US) re-upped their complaints that Democratic negotiators are taking too hard a line in talks on a sweeping coronavirus relief bill, but an afternoon negotiating session brought at least modest concessions from both sides, even as an agreement appears far off.

Top Democrats emerged from a meeting on Tuesday with Trump administration officials to declare more progress. The Trump team agreed with that assessment and highlighted its offer to extend a moratorium on evictions from federally subsidised housing through the end of the year.

“We really went down, issue by issue by issue slogging through this. They made some concessions which we appreciated. We made some concessions that they appreciated,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY “We’re still far away on a lot of the important issues but we’re continuing to go back.”

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Tuesday’s session was “probably the most productive meeting we’ve had to date.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the two sides set a goal of reaching an agreement by the end of the week to permit a vote next week.

“I would characterise concessions made by Secretary Mnuchin and the administration as being far more substantial than the concessions that had been made by the Democrat negotiators,” Meadows said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, issued a pointed reminder that she and Schumer are “legislators with long experience” and a track record of working complicated deals – a rejoinder to critics complaining that they are being too tough and that the talks are taking too long.

“We agree that we want to have an agreement,” Pelosi said. “Let’s engineer back from there as to what we have to do to get that done.”