U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that, while there’s still no agreement between White House and Democrat negotiators on the final shape of the next CCP virus relief package, it will contain another round of stimulus checks to American families.
“The good news is that we have reached agreement that if there is a deal, there are payments similar to last time that are in the package,” Mnuchin told Fox News’s Lou Dobbs, when asked if the much-anticipated fifth stimulus bill would contain direct payments like the $1,200 stimulus checks that were part of the CARES Act.
In addition to agreeing on another round of direct relief to families and individuals, Mnuchin said the sides see eye-to-eye on more funds for the popular Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses, more aid to airlines, funding for schools so they can safely reopen, and money for testing and vaccines.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Mnuchin met for the first time in weeks after talks between the two parties hit a snag. The most contentious issue was the Democrat demand for nearly $1 trillion in federal funding to states and cities. Before talks between Pelosi and Mnuchin resumed, the White House said Trump could agree to a $1.3 trillion bill.
Asked about the price tag of the overall package and if there’s a “median number here that is magical here in terms of reaching agreement,” Mnuchin said President Donald Trump instructed him and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to “come up significantly” from the $1 trillion deal they had been working on. He added that the president “would like to do a deal that’s a fair deal and something that can help the American public right now.”
He said a $2.2 trillion deal, which is what Pelosi has come down to after initially pushing a $3.4 trillion package, is still too high.
“If there’s a fair compromise, we’re prepared to do it,” Mnuchin said, adding that the figure is “in the neighborhood” of $1.5 trillion.
Both Pelosi and Mnuchin sounded more optimistic about the prospect of coming to an agreement, coming after House Democrats offered a $2.2 trillion update to the HEROES Act, which was passed in May.
Pelosi, in a statement Wednesday, said the two sides will continue discussions as they try to come up with a package that could pass in the House and Senate.
“Today, Secretary Mnuchin and I had an extensive conversation and we found areas where we are seeking further clarification. Our conversations will continue,” Pelosi said, adding that Democrats would vote on their updated HEROES Act “in order to formalize our proffer to Republicans in the negotiations to address the health and economic catastrophe in our country.”
House Democratic Conference Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told reporters that updated the bill would show the Democratic caucus’s “vision on what’s right legislatively at this moment.”
The updated HEROES Act would include $600-per-week unemployment benefits, stimulus payments, small business loans, and other measures.
Reuters contributed to this report.