- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said Wednesday there isn’t a good chance of getting a comprehensive coronavirus relief bill before the election.

Mr. Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been negotiating for weeks, but the two parties remain at an impasse.

“The clock will not stop,” Mr. Mnuchin said Wednesday at a conference sponsored by the Milken Institute. “I’d say at this point, getting something done before the election and executing on that would be difficult, just given where we are and the level of detail. [We’re going to] try to continue to work through these issues.”

The two spoke for about an hour Wednesday morning and plan to speak again on Thursday as talks continue to drag out.

One of the biggest points of contention in their most recent conversation was the need for a comprehensive national testing plan, according to a top Pelosi aide.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, is ardently sticking to her approach of rejecting the White House’s $1.8 trillion proposal and holding out for more, arguing it isn’t just the topline figure but also policy differences keeping the two sides apart. The Democrats’ last offer was $2.2 trillion.

In a letter to her members, Mrs. Pelosi explained that some of the sticking points still include funding for state and local governments, election assistance funds, and tax credits.

Mr. Mnuchin, at the conference on Wednesday, also acknowledged there were several policy issues holding up negotiations — not just money disputes.

Mrs. Pelosi told her colleagues on a conference call that they have never had better leverage.

However, some within her caucus, including progressive Rep. Ro Khanna, have been pushing back and urging her to make a deal quickly.

“A lot of members want a deal. The speaker is right that there are some things that have to be amended. … We’re not as far apart as people may think,” Mr. Khanna said on CNN Wednesday. “I’m not saying we should take exactly the language of what the White House offered. What I have said is … we’re close and we should be able to make the deal.”

“If the speaker has a way of saying we have a way of getting a $2.2 trillion deal. … I’m just saying we’ve got to do something. We can’t not do anything and just have back and forth partisan politics,” he added.

In response to the impasse, Republicans are starting to shift their focus back toward a slimmer bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, is set to bring up another approximately $500 billion package next week that will include new money for the Paycheck Protection Program, direct payments to individuals, unemployment insurance, liability protections, as well as hospitals and schools.

The last time Republicans brought up a “skinny” bill, it was blocked by Democrats who said it fell far too short of addressing the pandemic.

“From our standpoint, the all-or-nothing approach doesn’t make sense. There’s $130 billion of money that we have not spent, that we could spend tomorrow for additional PPP money for small businesses,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “But we will continue to simultaneously try to reach a comprehensive package.”

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

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide