Mnuchin: I can’t rule out a government shutdown 'two days before Christmas'

Mnuchin: I can’t rule out a government shutdown 'two days before Christmas'
© Greg Nash

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE on Sunday said he cannot imagine a government shutdown taking place days before the Christmas holiday if Congress cannot strike a deal on a spending bill, adding that he also cannot rule out the possibility.

"I can’t rule it out, but I can't imagine it occurring," Mnuchin told host Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."

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The finance chief said if Congress cannot reach a deal by Friday, the deadline to pass a spending bill, then they would have to pass a "short-term extension" into January in order to gain time to come to an agreement.

"I would expect that both the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, understand that if they can't agree on this, they need to have another short-term extension to move this to January. We can't have a government shutdown in front of Christmas," he added.

His remarks come as lawmakers scramble to reach a deal on a spending bill that would include a full year of defense funding as well as financing short-term fixes for other programs.

Even if Republicans have every GOP senator on board, they will need the support of at least eight Democratic senators to pass a funding bill through the upper chamber.

Democrats are demanding that any increase in defense funding is matched by an equal increase in nondefense funding after Republicans introduced the bill last week. 

"I just can't imagine sending government workers home for Christmas. I hope Congress gets this done," he added, declining to comment on the impact a shutdown would have.