Administration Reaches Out to Democrats on Stimulus Bill

Photo of author

By admin

WASHINGTON — Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, spoke on Wednesday with Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California to discuss a coronavirus relief package, though the conversation appeared to do little to resolve the standoff between the White House and top congressional Democrats over another economic stimulus measure.

It was the first contact between the two sides since talks collapsed late last week, but there was little sign of progress. Democrats said Mr. Mnuchin would not agree to a package larger than $1 trillion and Mr. Mnuchin accused Democrats of insisting on a $2 trillion threshold for any agreement, according to statements released by both sides.

Ms. Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, who initially pushed for the $3.4 trillion measure House Democrats approved in May, have repeatedly said they would be willing to lower their overall price tag by $1 trillion, provided that the White House double the initial Republican offer of $1 trillion. Mr. Mnuchin, according to the two Democrats, was still “refusing to budge” from that level.

“It is clear that the administration still does not grasp the magnitude of the problems that American families are facing,” Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer said in a joint statement. “We have again made clear to the administration that we are willing to resume negotiations once they start to take this process seriously.”

Mr. Mnuchin, in his own statement, said the account provided by the Democrats was “not an accurate reflection of our conversation.” Ms. Pelosi “made clear that she was unwilling to meet to continue negotiations unless we agreed in advance to her proposal, costing at least $2 trillion,” he said.

“The Democrats have no interest in negotiating,” he said, adding that the administration is willing to move forward with legislation that allows for substantial funding on a number of issues.

Weeks of near daily meetings in Ms. Pelosi’s Capitol suite failed to produce an agreement on the overall cost of a measure, let alone the policy mechanics needed to infuse the American economy with a trillion dollars or more of stimulus.

As talks sputtered in Washington, tens of millions of Americans have lost supplemental federal unemployment relief, a popular federal small-business loan program ended, a federal eviction moratorium expired and schools across the country are beginning the new education year without the promise of federal aid.

Over the weekend, President Trump sought to circumvent Congress and provide some semblance of relief with a series of executive actions, though the move has prompted confusion and criticism from some governors and questions about the president’s authority. White House officials have also explored whether Mr. Trump has the power to sidestep Congress and unilaterally cut a broad swath of taxes as he looks for ways to inject fuel into a slumping economy, according to a senior administration official.

On Wednesday, the president offered another torrent of criticism for the Democratic leaders, accusing them of “holding the American people hostage over money for their radical left-wing agenda” and criticizing them for pushing to include funding for election security and the beleaguered Postal Service.

“They probably should have negotiated a little bit differently,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference, though he has not been directly involved in the talks, instead offering contradicting statements and receiving updates from his top lieutenants.

Mr. Mnuchin’s outreach to both Democratic leaders — though he ultimately spoke only to Ms. Pelosi, according to two people familiar with the conversation — was the first time the two sides had spoken since talks collapsed Friday afternoon.

“Perhaps they think that any deal is good for the president and that’s why they don’t want to do it,” Mr. Mnuchin said in an interview on the Fox Business Network before the phone call.

“Instead of the Democrats basically saying ‘don’t give anybody anything unless we can get exactly what we want,’” he added, “the president wants to move forward with a very fair proposal.”

Ms. Pelosi, in turn, declared in her own television appearance on MSNBC that “we’re miles apart,” pointing to the Democratic demand for billions of dollars in relief for state and local governments, which have seen sharp revenue declines because of the pandemic, and food assistance programs. The $1 trillion Republican offer did not include funding for either provision, though some Republicans have said they would be open to including some funding, particularly for state and local governments.

“Let’s meet in the middle — we’ve said all of that,” she said. “But until they’re ready to do that, it’s no use sitting in a room and let them tell us that states should go bankrupt.”

While the Senate remains in session, there has been little movement other than partisan bickering over who is to blame over the lack of action on a relief package. The impasse has been frustrating in particular for vulnerable lawmakers, who are eager to assure voters three months before the general election that aid is imminent.

“I think there is much more agreement on the Covid-19 parts of the bill than anybody is admitting,” said Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, who said on Wednesday that he remained hopeful that lawmakers would reach an agreement before the next deadline that could create pressure to start talks again — the lapse of government funding before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

Ms. Pelosi rejected the suggestion that talks could drag into September.

“I hope not, no,” she said. “People will die.”

Alan Rappeport contributed reporting.

Source link

Leave a Comment