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

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinTreasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference Sanders defends push to impeach Trump: Insurrection won't be tolerated Ben Carson dismisses 25th Amendment talk: 'As a nation we need to heal' 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 TrumpEx-Trump lawyer Cohen to pen forward for impeachment book Murkowski says it would be 'appropriate' to bar Trump from holding office again Man known as 'QAnon Shaman' asks Trump for pardon after storming Capitol MORE.

While a number of Republicans opposed that measure, Mnuchin on Sunday blamed Democrats, telling "Fox News Sunday" host Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceMulvaney: Earlier Trump controversies were 'policy differences' or 'stylistic,' but 'Wednesday was existential' Clyburn: House has responsibility to impeach Trump over Georgia call Fox's Chris Wallace: Pence 'chose the Constitution' over helping Trump 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 ThuneStreamlining the process of prior authorization for medical and surgical procedures McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Republicans eye primaries in impeachment vote MORE (R-S.D.) and Sens. John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Rick Scott will 'likely' join challenge to election results Former NY GOP gov calls election challenges 'grave threat to our freedom' MORE (R-Texas) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Overnight Health Care: Biden unveils COVID-19 relief plan | Post-holiday surge hits new deadly records | Senate report faults 'broken' system for insulin price hikes Report faults 'broken' system for insulin price spikes 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.”