- The Washington Times - Friday, November 20, 2020

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said Friday that he’ll be meeting with GOP leaders on Capitol Hill to attempt to restart coronavirus stimulus negotiations.

Mr. Mnuchin said he’ll huddle with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy before pitching a new proposal to Democrats.

“Mark Meadows and I will be speaking with Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy this morning and we’re going to come up with a plan to talk to [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and [Senate Minority Leader Charles E.] Schumer and try to get a targeted bill done for the people who really need it,” Mr. Mnuchin said on CNBC. “And hopefully the Democrats will work with us.”

Lawmakers have struggled for months to pass additional economic relief after pushing through a historic $2 trillion with bipartisan, bicameral support in March and a supplemental bill the following month.

However, many of the benefits and provisions, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, created in that initial bill have expired or ran out of funds over the summer, with several others teetering on expiration with the end of the year fast approaching.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said she and Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, have been waiting for Republicans to come back and negotiate since the last round of talks collapsed in October.

“What is becoming clear to all Americans that we cannot achieve real economic recovery until we address the expanding public health crisis,” she said at her weekly press conference. “There’s just one big obstacle in the way in the Senate — it’s Mitch McConnell.”

Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer will meet with presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris Friday to discuss Congress’ lame-duck session, including prospects for a relief deal.

Talks have continuously broken down as Republicans aimed for a targeted approach aimed at specific industries and Democrats want a much heftier package with a wider array of benefits.

Among the top sticking points are a national testing plan, funding for state and local governments, election assistance funds, and tax credits.

The latest standoff had the White House offering $1.9 trillion, Democrats asking for $2.2 trillion, and Senate Republicans attempting to pass a “skinny” $500 billion package.

Neither side has shifted from its asking price since.

“I understand that the Democrats didn’t want us to do anything before the election because they didn’t want to do something that could be helpful to the president,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “But I had hoped, now that we’re now past the election, that the Democrats would now work with us.”

Mrs. Pelosi criticized the Treasury Department’s decision to not extend funding for several Federal Reserve lending programs established in the early days of the pandemic and highlighted the criticism it sparked from leading economic experts.

Mr. McConnell, however, argued that money could be redirected back into coronavirus relief programs.

“There is an obvious right use for these hundreds of billions of dollars of already-allocated but unused funds,” he said in a statement. “Congress should repurpose this money toward the kinds of urgent, important, and targeted relief measures that Republicans have been trying to pass for months, but which Democrats have repeatedly blocked with all-or-nothing demands.”

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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