Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday said COVID-19 stimulus negotiations remained at a standstill over Democratic lawmakers’ consistent push for almost $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments whose budgets have been battered during the pandemic.
“Anytime they have a new proposal, I’m willing to listen,” Mnuchin told Fox News’ Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”
Mnuchin said the Trump administration agrees with Democrats on a number of provisions included in both Democratic- and Republican-led stimulus proposals. But the GOP plan released earlier this month by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had a $1 trillion price tag compared to the $3 trillion package advanced by Democrats, and talks last week between administration officials and Democratic leaders showed little evidence that compromise was coming any time soon.
“We both want to send more checks to the American workers,” Mnuchin said. “We want to send more (Payroll Protection Program loans) to those hardest hit businesses. We’ve said let’s pass legislation on the things we agree on and knock these off one at a time. And they’ve refused to do that until they get their $1 trillion for the states.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday called on Republicans to “come back to the negotiating table, meet us halfway and work toward a compromise that will truly help American workers and families.”
Mnuchin argued that there is still about $150 billion available to states through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act approved by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in late March. Most of the states, Mnuchin said, “haven’t even used half of the money.”
“The governors are saying, ‘We need more money for education, we need help,’ and the president said, ‘We’ll give it to you,’ but not a trillion dollars,” Mnuchin told Wallace.
With talks stalled and a weekly $600 unemployment bonus expired last week, Trump recently bypassed Congress by issuing executive orders that could provide a $400 weekly enhancement to unemployment benefits, calling on states to cover a quarter of the costs. He also called for deferring payroll taxes and federal student loan payments, and continuing a federal freeze on evictions.
But Democrats and Republicans alike have criticized Trump’s orders, calling them unconstitutional and arguing they won’t be effective because Congress, not the president, has authority over appropriations.
Pelosi told Wallace on Sunday that Trump’s actions were “meager, weak and unconstitutional.”
Pelosi and other Democrats, including the Massachusetts delegation, have repeatedly urged Republicans to agree to provide state, local and tribal governments more funding. Public employee layoffs exceed 1.5 million as states, towns and cities have seen unprecedented budget shortfalls. Pelosi said Sunday that if Trump wants states to cover 25% of his proposed enhancement to unemployment insurance, they simply “don’t have the money.”
“They have expenses from the coronavirus, they have lost revenue from shelter-in-place and the fact that people are not being able to go out and spend money and inject demand into the economy as they would normally,” she said.
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