Peter Navarro on stalled coronavirus relief negotiations: Pelosi, Dems 'might be using workers as hostages'

Navarro on COVID-19 negotiations: Pelosi using workers as hostages to get the big deal Democrats want

Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro gives an update on COVID-19 stimulus negotiations in Washington on ‘America’s Newsroom.’

The idea “that Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats might be using workers as hostages” to get the “big deal that they want” regarding coronavirus relief is both “puzzling and troubling,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said Monday on “America’s Newsroom.”

Navarro made the comment three days after talks on Phase 4 coronavirus relief stalled in the Senate as boosted unemployment benefits expired.

Senate Republicans unveiled the “HEALS Act,” their version of a fresh round of coronavirus relief last week. HEALS stands for the package’s focus on Health, Economic Assistance, Liability protection and Schools.

The $1 trillion Republican bill is the alternative to the House’s “Heroes Act,” the $3 trillion relief legislation passed in May. The “Heroes Act” was the most expensive legislation approved by that body in history.

“President Donald Trump is a working-class president,” Navarro said on Monday. “He’s deeply concerned about people who are on the unemployment lines, who face eviction.”

He went on to say that what Trump would “love to see right now” is “some progress on enhanced employment benefits as well as eviction while the negotiations take place.”

On Sunday, Pelosi, D-Calif., said the two sides can't even agree on the basics. She did not seem willing to compromise on the extra $600 a week.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, “We proposed a one week extension at $600 so that while we negotiate a longer-term solution at least all those people don't lose their money and I'm surprised that the Democrats won't agree to that. They are insistent on having this as part of a larger deal.”

Navarro noted on Monday that Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows are “working tirelessly on this.”

“What's puzzling and troubling perhaps is the idea that Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats might be using workers as hostages to get to that big deal that they want,” Navarro continued.

“In the meantime, there is a lot of ways to spend several trillion dollars and we would love to see that fighting the China virus and helping get our manufacturing and pharmaceuticals onshore. Those are big priorities for us.”

Lawmakers reported progress on the huge coronavirus relief bill Saturday after Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Mnuchin took part in a rare three-hour weekend session as political pressure mounts to restore the expired $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit and send funding to help schools reopen.

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On Sunday Schumer said, “The one bright spot in the economy is consumer spending.”

“A lot of that was because of robust unemployment benefits and… the way the Republicans have proposed it, with a dramatic cut to $200 it would take for many state governments who do unemployment – weeks and months to get it back in effect and people wouldn't get their benefits,” he continued.

Prior talks had yielded little progress and Saturday's cautious optimism was a break from gloomy private assessments among GOP negotiators. The administration is willing to extend the newly expired $600 jobless benefit, at least in the short term, but is balking at other Democratic demands like aid for state and local governments, food stamp increases, and assistance to renters and homeowners.

Navarro said he didn’t want to “get in the middle of the negotiations,” but added that “in the short run, meaning in the next few days, let's pass an enhanced employment package to make sure American workers on the unemployment lines are kept whole.”

“We're all for that and we're all for making sure that people don't get evicted from their apartments so let's get that done,” he continued, adding that it could potentially get done “today.”

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“In the meantime then, let's have the longer negotiations about what this big package should look like. That's what we're looking for,” Navarro said.

Fox Business’ Evie Fordham and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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