Pelosi, Mnuchin face off as stimulus talks stall

Top Democrats and Republicans engaged in a war of words Sunday as a breakthrough on the next round of stimulus spending remained elusive.

“In our negotiations, we’re talking about dealing with some of the consequences of this pandemic, but the fact is, we must … defeat this virus. And that’s one of the points that we still have not come to any agreement on,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on ABC’s “This Week.”

She also slammed Republicans for their opposition to extending an extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits.

“They have a $200 proposal which does not meet the needs of working families,” Pelosi said. “The idea that they made a proposal is really not actually factual.”

Speaking later Sunday morning, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin rejected the House speaker’s criticism.

"I was surprised to hear the speaker say we don't agree on the need to kill the virus," he said. "We absolutely agree on the need to kill the virus."

But he showed no sign of budging on unemployment benefits.

“We have to balance,” Mnuchin said. “There’s obviously a need to support workers, support the economy ... on the other hand, we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amounts of debt.”

Republicans say the recently expired $600 boost in unemployment benefits discourages people from seeking work.

"There are cases where people are overpaid," Mnuchin contended.

Republicans previously proposed extending the $600 benefit by one week, but Democrats said that didn’t go far enough to help Americans as the country continues to reel from the ongoing economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

The comments came after Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and top Dems met Saturday to try to break the impasse.

The country is in a new phase of the outbreak, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said Sunday.

"What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It's into the rural as equal urban areas," she said on CNN.

After weeks of mixed signals from the White House, Birx urged people to wear masks.

"To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus," she said. "If you're in multi-generational households, and there's an outbreak in your rural area or in your city, you need to really consider wearing a mask at home, assuming that you're positive, if you have individuals in your households with comorbidities."

The U.S. had more than 4.5 million COVID-19 cases as of Sunday, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University, the most out of any country in the world. Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa trailed America’s numbers.

The U.S. death toll stood at more than 150,000, according to Johns Hopkins. The number of fatalities could reach more than 173,000 by Aug. 22, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted.

Birx declined to predict a new death toll on Sunday.

Meanwhile, President Trump continued to insist that things were in fact worse in other countries, tweeting: “Big [coronavirus] breakouts all over the World, including nations which were thought to have done a great job. The Fake News doesn’t report this. USA will be stronger than ever before, and soon!”

Pelosi repeated accusations that the White House is misleading the public for political gain.

“I think the president is spreading disinformation about the virus, and she is his appointee,” she said when asked about Birx. “So I don’t have confidence there, no.”

Birx said that she has “never been called Pollyannish or non-scientific or non-data-driven. And I will stake my 40-year career on those fundamental principles of utilizing data to really implement better programs to save more lives.”

In spite of the stalled negotiations, Mnuchin insisted there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

“The president’s determined to spend what we need to spend,” he said. “We’re acting very quickly now.”