As virus aid talks stalemate, Trump scorns help for cities

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President Donald Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows talk before Trump speaks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Washington. Trump is en route to Texas. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Wednesday dismissed Democratic demands for aid to cash-strapped cities in a new coronavirus relief package and lashed out at Republican allies as talks stalemated over assistance for millions of Americans. Another lawmaker tested positive for the virus.

Republicans, beset by delays and infighting, signaled a willingness to swiftly approve a modest package to revamp a $600 weekly unemployment benefit that's running out. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., roundly rejected that approach as meager, all but forcing Republicans back to the negotiating table. Without action, the aid expires Friday.

“We’re nowhere close to the deal,” said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. He said they're “miles apart.”

Stark differences remain between the $3 trillion proposal from Democrats and $1 trillion counter from Republicans, a standoff that is testing Trump and Congress ahead of the November election and putting aid for communities nationwide at risk.

Pelosi said the best way to reopen schools and the economy is to defeat the virus, and that can't be done with the “skinny” bill Republicans are rushing to cobble together. “They still don’t get it,” Pelosi said.

The virus toll continued to mount in the U.S., with 4.4 million confirmed cases and deaths passing 150,000. Outspoken Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, who often objects to mask-wearing, became the latest lawmaker at the Capitol to test positive for the virus.

Money for states and cites is a crucial dividing line as local governments plead for help to shore up budgets and prevent deeper layoffs as they incur COVID-19 costs and lost tax revenue in shutdown economies.

Trump complained about sending “big bailout money” to the nation's cities, whose mayors he often criticizes.