Forced to negotiate a comprehensive package because Pelosi refuses to deal with issues in standalone bills, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday night that the administration’s top priority is unlocking approximately $300 billion approved in the initial large stimulus package.
The money requires congressional authority to spend.
Trump cut off negotiations last week but Mnuchin soon resumed speaking with Pelosi, trying to hammer out an agreement.
The sides are close on money but remain far apart on some issues, including whether to give aid to states and what that aid can be used for.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is planning on bringing a narrow GOP package to a vote in the Senate on Oct. 19. The bill focuses on authorizing money for the small business loan program and several other issues.
Pelosi has expressed opposition to the package. McConnell “has never taken this seriously,” she said during an Oct. 14 appearance on MSNBC’s “The Last Word.”
Asked why Democrats won’t accept narrow bills that tackle issues in small groupings or one by one, Mnuchin said he doesn’t think there’s a good answer.
“I suspect that they don’t want to give the president a win three weeks before the election. But they are holding up relief to hardworking Americans,” he said in an appearance on Fox Business.
“There’s a lot of areas in here that we would have enormous bipartisan support if they could be passed on a standalone basis. The speaker and Senator [Chuck] Schumer have insisted on an all-or-nothing approach, so we have been trying to negotiate in good faith a comprehensive package that would include a lot of things, would include money for testing, vaccines, kids, jobs, health care.”
Pelosi and Mnuchin spent about 1 hour on the phone earlier Wednesday, Pelosi’s spokesman said on Twitter.
One major area of disagreement “continues to be that the White House lacks an understanding of the need for a national strategic testing plan,” he said, adding, “The speaker believes we must reopen our economy and schools safely and soon, and scientists agree we must have a strategic testing plan.”
Pelosi and Mnuchin plan on speaking again by phone on Thursday morning.
“I’m always hopeful … and we’re going to keep trying. If the speaker wants to compromise, we can get this done quickly,” Mnuchin said.
Mnuchin said any aid to states has to have restrictions, such as not being available for use on pensions.
Pelosi brought that up on MSNBC.
“This isn’t about that. This is about a pandemic, in case you haven’t noticed. This is about a pandemic, where we are trying to compensate the states for the money that they spent on the pandemic and the revenue that they lost,” she said.
“They haven’t taken this seriously. And what’s sad about it is we could come to an agreement, we need to come to an agreement,” she added later.
Trump took to Twitter early Thursday to accuse Pelosi of holding up a deal.
“Nancy Pelosi couldn’t care less about the American People or the great American Worker,” he wrote. “She should approve needed STIMULUS now. Most other Dems agree. Republicans are ready to go, I am ready to sign!!!”