Mnuchin: It 'wouldn't be fair to use taxpayer dollars to pay more people to sit home'

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump won't say if he disagrees with Birx that virus is widespread On The Money: Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in stimulus talks | Prosecutors hint at probe into 'possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization' Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in talks with White House MORE took a hard line Sunday against the $600 increase in unemployment benefits that was a part of the last coronavirus relief measure, saying, “It just wouldn’t be fair to use taxpayer dollars to pay more people to sit home than they would working and get a job.”

GOP lawmakers have taken a hard line against the enhancement as they negotiate with the White House over a new relief measure. The initial bill won blowback from Republicans who said some people would make more money not working than going to work.

The unemployment benefits are slated to expire at the end of the month, even as the nation deals with a jobless rate of 11.1 percent. Democrats want to extend the increase in the new bill, arguing it will cause more damage to end or limit the enhancement. 

The White House and Senate GOP have struggled to reach a deal on a package because of various differences, including the inclusion of a payroll tax cut demanded by President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE.

While a number of Republicans opposed that measure, Mnuchin on Sunday blamed Democrats, telling "Fox News Sunday" host Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceTrump adviser Jason Miller: Biden running mate pick 'his political living will' Sunday shows - Stimulus debate dominates Bass: 'Lesson learned' on 2016 Castro comments MORE, “It was very clear the Democrats were not going to give us a payroll tax cut.”

Wallace brought up the fact that several leading Senate Republicans were also opposed to a payroll tax cut, including Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Frustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock MORE (R-S.D.) and Sens. John CornynJohn CornynThis week: Negotiators hunt for coronavirus deal as August break looms Frustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal Chamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection MORE (R-Texas) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Republicans dismiss Trump proposal to delay election Timeline for GOP's Obama probe report slips as chairman eyes subpoenas MORE (R-Iowa), to which Mnuchin responded, “There were other Republicans that supported it.”

He then said another round of direct payments to Americans would be more effective.

“The direct payments are a much quicker way of effectively giving everyone a tax cut — much quicker than the payroll tax cut,” he said, adding that “June retail sales were 1 percent higher than June of last year, so all that money we pumped into the economy, it worked. People went out and spent.”

Mnuchin expressed optimism a deal could be reached in the House to pass the Senate’s version of the relief package, saying liability protections for schools remained a key issue for any legislation.

“We can move very quickly with the Democrats on these issues,” he told Wallace. “If there are issues that take longer, we’ll deal with those as well.”