Mnuchin says he and Pelosi have agreed to restart coronavirus stimulus talks
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have agreed to revive negotiations over a stalled follow-up coronavirus relief bill.
“I’ve probably spoken to Speaker Pelosi 15 or 20 times in the last few days on the CR,” Mnuchin told the Senate Banking Committee during a hearing with Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell, referring to a continuing resolution to extend government funding, “and we’ve agreed to continue to have discussions about the CARES Act.”
Pelosi also said Thursday that she expected negotiations with the White House to resume shortly, telling reporters at the Capitol, “We’ll be hopefully soon to the table with them.”
Mnuchin and Pelosi’s comments come amid a months-long partisan stalemate over a follow up to the CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill signed by President Trump in March.
While there is broad bipartisan support for certain components of a stimulus bill, Democrats and Republicans remain deeply divided over the size and scope of another package. Spiking partisan tensions driven by the looming November elections and the battle over the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have also made a breakthrough unlikely before Election Day.
Democrats have insisted that the federal government must approve trillions in further aid to renew a lapse in enhanced unemployment benefits, bolster state and local government budgets, send another round of direct relief payments to struggling households and expand housing and eviction protections.
Republicans, however, are wary of adding to the national debt and prefer a targeted package intended to help schools and day care centers reopen and bring Americans back to work as quickly as possible.
Mnuchin, one of Trump’s two chief stimulus negotiators, urged Democrats to come back to the table for a bill built around areas of wide bipartisan agreement such as revamping the Paycheck Protection Program to aid small businesses and relief payments.
“Let’s pass things that we agree on quickly, and we can always come back and do more,” Mnuchin said. “It’s less of the issue of what the absolute number is.”
But Senate Democrats insisted that the GOP offerings so far have failed to meet the minimum necessary to bolster a recovering but fragile economy.
“The Senate offered a paltry $500 billion plan. Economists all over the country wanted three and four and five times that amount. You and the president said you want something larger,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), the ranking Democrat on the Banking Committee and one of the Senate’s most progressive members.
“Why can’t you get Senate Republicans to go along with a bigger number than the $500 billion package?” he continued, referring to a GOP-proposed measure blocked by Senate Democrats earlier this month.
Democrats and Republicans will have to overcome a nearly $1 trillion gulf between their proposals to pass a bipartisan package before Election Day, and the parties have made limited progress over the summer in narrowing that gap.
Pelosi has agreed to consider a measure costing roughly $2.2 trillion, about $1 trillion less than the sprawling aid package passed by the House in May, but Republicans have refused to consider a bill that costs more than $1.1 trillion.
With the window to strike a deal closing, Powell warned senators that a failure to follow up on the success of the CARES Act could cause deep economic devastation.
“If people start to run through it what resources they have, they’re they’re at risk of losing their homes or having to move out of the place they’re renting, maybe move back in with family, and those things are not necessarily good for controlling the spread of the virus,” Powell said.
“The CARES Act really did a lot of good in putting money in people’s hands and keeping them in their homes and keeping them spending, keeping them in one piece. Going forward, more of that may be needed.”
Updated at 12:54 p.m.