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

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden rallies Senate Dems behind mammoth spending plan Mnuchin dodges CNBC questions on whether Trump lying over election Democrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer 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 TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE.

While a number of Republicans opposed that measure, Mnuchin on Sunday blamed Democrats, telling "Fox News Sunday" host Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceAnything-but-bipartisan 1/6 commission will seal Pelosi's retirement. Here's why Biden walks fine line with Fox News Aides who clashed with Giuliani intentionally gave him wrong time for Trump debate prep: book 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 votes to take up infrastructure deal Senators say they have deal on 'major issues' in infrastructure talks Senators reach billion deal on emergency Capitol security bill MORE (R-S.D.) and Sens. John CornynJohn CornynSenate votes to take up infrastructure deal Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Eight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division MORE (R-Texas) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators 'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection 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.”