With unemployment assistance to millions of Americans expiring Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted the White House and Senate Republicans for what she called their failure to "understand the gravity of the situation."
“Let's say that the path that they have taken us down with their delay, their denials, their distortions have caused death — speaking alliteratively — has caused deaths unnecessarily,” Pelosi told reporters Friday on Capitol Hill.
The Democratic-controlled House passed legislation in May to address the unemployment aid and other issues, including food shortages, testing problems and money to help schools prepare for the return of students, she noted.
A White House proposal for a one-week extension of unemployment benefits falls far short of what's needed, the speaker said, adding that the Republican proposals have not included funding for food and have focused on reducing the amount of money in the unemployment payouts.
Some Republicans have said the $600-a-week benefit is an incentive for people to stay unemployed.
"They distrust American workers," Pelosi said. "They're condescending and disrespectful of the needs of America's working families. Why else would they not have had food in their proposal?"
Pelosi said the virus “is a freight train that is picking up steam and picking up speed. It must be stopped.”
"We recognize the gravity of the situation. They don’t," Pelosi said, noting that the White House and Republican-controlled Senate didn't unveil their proposals until this week.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows pointed a finger straight back at Pelosi on Friday, saying he'd made four separate proposals to her and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday night to extend the benefits.
"Those offers have been rejected but have not even been countered with a proposal," Meadows said. "What we're seeing is politics as usual from the Democrats on Capitol Hill," he added.
The two sides were scheduled to meet in Pelosi’s office Saturday morning, aides said.
President Donald Trump offered a similar criticism of the Democratic leaders in a series of tweets Friday afternoon.
"Pelosi & Schumer blocked desperately needed unemployment payments, which is so terrible, especially since they fully understand that it was not the workers fault that they are unemployed," Trump wrote. He added, "The Do Nothing Democrats are more interested in playing politics than in helping our deserving people."
Pelosi also took aim at Trump's suggestion Thursday that the presidential election be delayed, noting that the House-passed bill has funding for election protections.
“I respect the office of the presidency, and the president doesn’t, and just every single day he degrades the office,” she said, adding that "we need to have an election that does not jeopardize the health and well-being of the American people."
Despite all her criticism, Pelosi said she still anticipates being able to work out a deal.
“We anticipate we’ll have a bill but we’re not there yet,” she said. “Let’s sit down and get this done.”