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Mnuchin says COVID-19 relief before election 'would be difficult'

Mnuchin says COVID-19 relief before election 'would be difficult'
© Greg Nash

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinOn The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears Mnuchin expected to launch investment fund seeking backing from Persian Gulf region: report Larry Kudlow debuts to big ratings on Fox Business Network MORE on Wednesday cast doubt on the prospects of getting a fifth COVID-19 relief package deal approved before Election Day.

"I’d say at this point getting something done before the election and executing on that would be difficult," he said at the Milken Institute Global Conference.

Stock markets fell on the news, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipping 200 points, or about 7 percent.

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Mnuchin has been negotiating a deal with Speaker of the House Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMinimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster House Democrats to keep minimum wage hike in COVID-19 relief bill for Friday vote Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow MORE (D-Calif.) for months, and most recently upped the White House offer to $1.8 trillion, getting closer to the latest Democratic ask of $2.2 trillion.

Mnuchin said the two spoke for an hour earlier Wednesday morning, and that he spent an additional two hours speaking with White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsHow scientists saved Trump's FDA from politics Liberals howl after Democrats cave on witnesses Kinzinger calls for people with info on Trump to come forward MORE and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMinimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee MORE (R-Ky.).

A Pelosi spokesman said the talks were "productive," but that key disagreements remained over language on a national COVID-19 testing plan.

"The Speaker believes we must reopen our economy & schools safely & soon, & scientists agree we must have a strategic testing plan,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill tweeted.

Mnuchin suggested that the policy questions in the bill remained a significant hurdle, and reiterated calls for smaller, stand-alone bills dealing with individual issues.

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"There's a lot of details, other than just the top-line number," he said.

The admission that a deal is unlikely ahead of the election could dim President TrumpDonald TrumpDonald Trump Jr. calls Bruce Springsteen's dropped charges 'liberal privilege' Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee MORE's hopes of getting an electoral boost from a new round of stimulus checks and expanded unemployment insurance in the days before Election Day.

Trump, who dramatically called off stimulus talks last week citing Democratic insistence on a much larger package than the White House was willing to stomach, has since done a complete about-face, pushing Congress to "go big."

His top economic adviser Larry KudlowLarry KudlowMORE suggested that the White House could go higher still, and even outbid Democrats, though the original Democratic bill was $3.4 trillion.

Senate Republicans, in the meantime, have been increasingly vocal in their opposition to a large bill, raising the prospects that they could buck Trump even if he were to strike a bargain with Pelosi.

The need for federal action has become increasingly urgent as key provisions of March's CARES Act have expired, including expanded unemployment benefits for millions of Americans and emergency loans to small businesses.

A number of struggling airlines said they would need to lay off tens of thousands of workers without a new aid package at the start of October.