- The Washington Times - Monday, August 10, 2020

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said Monday the Trump administration is prepared to strike a deal with Democrats this week on comprehensive coronavirus relief legislation but that they aren’t going to kowtow to every single demand.

“There’s a deal to do if the Democrats are reasonable and want to compromise,” Mr. Mnuchin said on CNBC. “If we can get a fair deal, we’ll do it this week.”

He said both sides have come to agreements in some areas, like on money for cash-strapped small businesses, additional direct payments for Americans, and new money for food assistance, hospitals and vaccines.

“We’ve compromised,” he said. “We’re not stuck at the trillion dollars, but we’re not going to go to unlimited amounts of money to do things that don’t make sense.”

President Trump took executive action over the weekend to partially extend juiced-up unemployment benefits, defer payroll taxes and student loan payments, and extend a moratorium on housing evictions after Mr. Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Democratic congressional leaders couldn’t strike a deal on a broad agreement.

“The president is determined to spend what we need to spend,” Mr. Mnuchin said.

Mr. Trump said Monday that it looks like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer want to strike a deal.

“Where have they been for the last 4 weeks when they were ‘hardliners’, and only wanted BAILOUT MONEY for Democrat run states and cities that are failing badly? They know my phone number!” the president tweeted.

Democrats have been pushing a nearly $3.5 trillion package and Senate Republicans had laid out their own $1 trillion offer.

Both sides appeared to be willing to come out of their respective corners, but they failed to reach a broad agreement after weeks of negotiating.

“We’re splitting things that make sense to split,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “What we’re not going to do is say where there’s really bad policy ideas — we’re not going to just split the difference.”

Mr. Mnuchin said Democrats’ ask of nearly $1 trillion for state and local governments isn’t going to happen.

“We’ve given them flexibility and we’ve offered more money for state and local, but we’re not going to give $1 trillion to state and local — that’s just not a reasonable approach,” he said.

He called the trillion-dollar ask “an absurd number.”

He said a 25% cost-share for the states in Mr. Trump’s $400-per-week extension of bolstered unemployment benefits will essentially come from the federal government because there’s leftover money to cover things for many states.

Democrats had pushed for an extension of $600-per-week additional benefits, which expired at the end of July, at least through the end of the year.

Earlier Monday, Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, called Mr. Trump’s executive actions “laughable.”

He said the new unemployment benefits extension isn’t going to be operational for a month or two, “if at all.”

“So here we’re going to have through September all these people not getting the money,” Mr. Schumer said on MSNBC. “And the $600, you know, they have no respect for the American people and that’s part of the hard-right philosophy.”

Republicans have said it doesn’t make sense to structure the benefits so people are paid more to take the unemployment versus returning to work.

“We said to the president’s negotiators last week, we’ll meet you in the middle. We’ll cut a trillion; you raise a trillion,” Mr. Schumer said. “You know what they said? Absolutely not.”

Mr. Schumer said he asked the president’s team whether it was their way or the highway and they said yes.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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