No. 2 House Democrat says U.S.COVID-19 aid bill talks ongoing

House Majority Leader Hoyer testifies as the House Rules Committee meets to consider a resolution authorizing remote voting by proxy and to formulate a rule on the newest coronavirus relief bill in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Negotiations over another coronavirus relief bill continue, the No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives said as a federal jobless benefit was set to expire on Friday with no sign of a deal between the White House and Democrats.

“We’re going to be negotiating every minute that is possible,” despite the Republican-led Senate’s adjournment for the weekend, U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, told MSNBC in an interview.

Lawmakers and the White House are at odds over efforts to further shore up the economy and manage the novel coronavirus pandemic that has left tens of millions of Americans out of work and killed at least 152,384 people in the United States.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent senators home for the weekend without reaching a deal to extend the extra $600 per week unemployment benefits many received amid the outbreak. But he was maneuvering to possibly set up votes next week on Republicans’ plan to slash the aid to $200 per week if no bipartisan deal was reached before then.

“We’re here, we’re on the phone. We will be negotiating with those who want to get to a reasonable place,” Hoyer told MSNBC. He added that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Thursday had floated a four-month extension of the $600 benefit.

More details on the White House position may emerge when Trump’s spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany gives a press briefing scheduled for 10:30 a.m. (1430 GMT). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is also scheduled to talk to reporters at 10:45 a.m. (1445 GMT).

McConnell has said there would be no deal with Democrats, who earlier passed their own $3-trillion stimulus package that included a renewal of the $600 jobless benefit, without a so-called liability shield for companies. But the Washington Post, citing two unnamed sources, on Friday reported that the White House was willing to leave out that protection.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Nick Zieminski)