Key Democrat presses Mnuchin about Trump's name on coronavirus checks

The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday pressed Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Economy adds 4.8M jobs in June | Unemployment to average 6.1 percent through 2030: CBO | Mnuchin says no regrets on pushing to reopen Treasury approves 0 million loan to company being sued for overcharging Pentagon US no longer 'flattening the curve' of coronavirus pandemic, administration official says MORE about the decision to put President TrumpDonald John TrumpSecret Service members who helped organize Pence Arizona trip test positive for COVID-19: report Trump administration planning pandemic office at the State Department: report Iran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report MORE's name on the coronavirus relief checks, after Mnuchin said the move was his idea.

"To set the record straight, I request details about how you made this decision to benefit the president politically, which may delay delivery of critical funds to millions of Americans struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table," Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse | Trump administration awards tech group contract to build 'virtual' wall | Advocacy groups urge Congress to ban facial recognition technologies Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democratic proposal to extend 0 unemployment checks MORE (D-Ore.) wrote in a letter to Mnuchin.

The $2.2 trillion stimulus legislation enacted late last month, known as the CARES Act, provides for one-time direct payments for most Americans of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. 

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The Treasury Department said it has already sent payments to more than 80 million Americans via direct deposit and started issuing paper checks this week. 

Mnuchin said in a CNN interview on Sunday that the paper checks will have Trump's name on them, but that the president is not the signer of the checks.

"We did put the president's name on the check. That was my idea," Mnuchin said. "He is the president, and I think it's a terrific symbol to the American public."

Mnuchin said that Trump could have been authorized to sign the checks, but that Treasury decided against doing so because the department didn't want to slow down their issuance.

Wyden said in his letter that Mnuchin's comments were "surprising" to him because his staff had previously asked Treasury officials questions about signatures on the checks, and those officials didn't answer them.

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"If adding the signature was in fact your idea that information could have already been made available to Congress," Wyden wrote.

The Washington Post last week reported that Trump had suggested that he formally sign the checks, instead of them being signed by a nonpartisan civil servant. The Post also quoted the national president of an association for federal government managers as saying that a decision like the one to put Trump's name on the checks would result in delays.

"I am concerned that the decision to gratuitously affix the president’s name to checks disbursing taxpayer funds may have delayed delivery of money urgently needed by millions of Americans to meet basic needs," Wyden wrote.

Treasury spokeswoman Monica Crowley last week called the Washington Post article "inaccurate and misleading," saying the checks are set to be sent out on time.

Wyden asked Mnuchin for information about where and how Trump's name will appear on the checks, who at Treasury was involved in deciding that Trump's name would be featured, what effect the decision to add Trump's name will have on the timing of the payments and whether the president has the authority to sign checks drawn against Treasury accounts.