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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 MnuchinDemocrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer Yellen provides signature for paper currency Biden's name will not appear on stimulus checks, White House says 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 TrumpDC goes to the dogs — Major and Champ, that is Biden on refugee cap: 'We couldn't do two things at once' Taylor Greene defends 'America First' effort, pushes back on critics MORE.

While a number of Republicans opposed that measure, Mnuchin on Sunday blamed Democrats, telling "Fox News Sunday" host Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceMcConnell seeks to end feud with Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden meets with bipartisan lawmakers for infrastructure negotiations Biden to meet Monday with bipartisan lawmakers about infrastructure 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 ThuneGOP acknowledges struggle to bring down Biden Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Biden outreach on infrastructure met with Republican skepticism MORE (R-S.D.) and Sens. John CornynJohn CornynSunday shows preview: Russia, US exchange sanctions; tensions over policing rise; vaccination campaign continues GOP acknowledges struggle to bring down Biden Intelligence leaders push for mandatory breach notification law MORE (R-Texas) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley: Iowa can't afford to be 'babysitting' unaccompanied minors Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle On The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire 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.”