- The Washington Times - Monday, September 14, 2020

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said Monday that the coronavirus pandemic is no time to prioritize a smaller budget deficit, arguing that such concerns shouldn’t delay any new COVID-19 relief efforts.

“Now is not the time to worry about shrinking the deficit or shrinking the Fed balance sheet,” Mr. Mnuchin said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “Had we not passed the $3 trillion deal and had the Fed not acted in the way they’ve done … I think you’d see a very, very different economic scenario right now.”

Mr. Mnuchin, along with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, spearheaded negotiations with congressional Democrats on the coronavirus relief deal in July and August.

His latest sentiments echoed those of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, who has defended her party’s insistence on at least another $2 trillion deal by touting low-interest rates from the Federal Reserve.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have struggled to reach a compromise on coronavirus relief spending since the Republicans released their $1 trillion proposal and talks began in earnest in July.

A large portion of Senate Republicans at the time balked against the hefty price tag of their own party’s proposal, though it was still $2 trillion less than the bill House Democrats passed in May.

The party rallied together last week to vote for a $500 billion package last week in the Senate, but Democrats blocked it.

The bill would have provided funds to replenish the small-business Paycheck Protection Program, help reopen schools, shore up resources for child care facilities, as well as fund vaccine and testing research. It also would have extended boosted federal unemployment payments, though the boost would only be $300 per week — half of what Democrats want.

Democrats slammed the bill as “emaciated,” railing against its provisions for school choice and liability protection.

Talks between congressional Democrats and White House negotiators collapsed in August after they could not agree to a middle-ground price tag.

The parties also remain far apart on spending for local and state governments. The Democrats’ last request was for $900 billion in additional aid, while the Republicans’ bill didn’t include any new funds.

While the talks remain stalled and lawmakers have little hope a deal will be made before the November election, Mr. Mnuchin left the door open. He and Mrs. Pelosi are prioritizing on getting a government spending bill passed by the end of this month to avert a government shutdown.

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