Mnuchin defends Trump's move on executive actions

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinLawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal United Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid House Democrats plan to unveil bill next week to avert shutdown MORE on Monday defended President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally MORE's decision to sign a series of executive orders after talks with Congress on a coronavirus relief package collapsed, arguing that the president had to move forward.

“If we can get a fair deal, we’ll do it this week, but the president needed to take action," Mnuchin said in an interview on CNBC. "He’s not going to sit around."

Mnuchin said that the signing of the controversial orders came after he and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump reacts to Ginsburg's death: 'An amazing woman who led an amazing life' Trump carries on with rally, unaware of Ginsburg's death United Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE reported to Trump on Friday that talks with Democrats were at an impasse.

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"We left the meeting on Friday. Mark Meadows and I reported back to him that we were nowhere, and that’s why he moved forward,” Mnuchin said.

Trump on Saturday signed memoranda aimed at providing enhanced unemployment benefits, deferring payroll tax payments, and providing student loan and federal eviction relief. Democrats have criticized the orders, arguing that they're insufficient and are unlikely to be effective. A number of Republicans have backed the president's actions, though some GOP lawmakers have questioned whether the president had the legal authority to do what he did.

Top congressional Democrats and administration officials met several times last week to discuss coronavirus relief legislation, but they remain far apart on a number of issues, including aid to state and local governments.

House Democrats passed a bill in May that would provide almost $1 trillion to state, local, territorial and tribal governments. But Mnuchin said that number is "absurd," arguing that there is still money remaining for states under previous legislation and that some states had financial problems before the pandemic.

The Treasury secretary also said that Trump would sign a bill that focuses specifically on helping schools.

“The president will be more than happy to sign a stand-alone education bill," Mnuchin aid. "Let’s get that done. Let’s not hold up our kids, and let’s not hold up our small businesses that need to get back to work. This is not about partisan politics. Let’s focus on the kids and the jobs.”