Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has been representing the White House in the stimulus negotiations, sounded a pessimistic note on reaching such agreement before the election.
“At this point, getting something done before the election and executing on that would be difficult just given where we are in the level of detail,” Mnuchin said on Wednesday at the Milken Institute Global Conference. “We're going to try to continue to work.”
Mnuchin's latest comments echoed remarks by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who told reporters last week that “the proximity of the election and the differences of opinion about what is needed at this particular juncture are pretty vast.”
On Wednesday, further indicating that a big deal before the election is increasingly unlikely, Mnuchin added that “the president is very focused on when he wins [the election], we will need to do more.”
Mnuchin spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Wednesday morning as part of their renewed effort to reach a bipartisan agreement on a stimulus bill. The two had a “productive” call, Pelosi’s spokesperson said in a tweet, but several disagreements remain.
“We're exchanging papers, we continue to make progress on certain issues, on certain issues we continue to be far apart,” Mnuchin said.
The Democrats’ latest $2.2 trillion stimulus proposal — passed by the House in September — has a higher price tag than the White House’s $1.8 trillion proposal and a much higher price tag than GOP proposals.
‘We want to put money into the economy now’
Any deal reached by Democrats and the White House would likely face stiff opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, where it would need 60 votes to pass. On Tuesday, McConnell announced that the Senate plans to take up a separate stimulus proposal worth $500 billion next week.
In a letter to Congress on Sunday, Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows called on Congress to allow them to repurpose leftover money from the Payroll Protection Program (PPP).
“We're continuing to negotiate a comprehensive bill, but we want to put money into the economy now,” the letter stated. “We have a lot of money that is authorized that we can't use from the last CARES Act so we have probably over $300 billion that we could repurpose tomorrow with approval from Congress.”
There are around $130 billion left from the program but Mnuchin says that the overall available funding is $300 billion. Such a proposal is not expected to advance as it would require support from the Democrats, and Pelosi has previously criticized it.
On Monday, Pelosi listed eight sticking points in the proposal she received from the administration including aid for state and local governments, funding for schools, workers’ protections and child care support, rental assistance, funding for increased testing and tracing as well as funding for small businesses, elections, and the census.
The Democratic proposal includes $436 billion for state and local governments, $282 billion for education and child care, a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks, an extra $600 of unemployment benefits through January, and other provisions.