Mnuchin says passing COVID-19 relief before the election would be ‘difficult’ as negotiations continue

WASHINGTON – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that passing another COVID-19 relief package before the election would be “difficult.”

“I’d say at this point, getting something done before the election and executing on that would be difficult, just given where we are,” he said at the Milken Institute Global Conference.

The Republican-controlled Senate is set to act on a roughly $500 billion relief proposal next week, an amount rejected by congressional Democrats as insufficient to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. The last White House offer of about $1.8 trillion was also rejected by House Democrats, who have held fast to their $2.2 trillion proposal.

“There are money issues, but there’s also policy issues,” Mnuchin said, adding that the Trump administration supports “immediate help” through standalone bills for small-business loans and airline aid while negotiations over a larger package continue.

Both sides have deadlocked over issues such as the amount of relief for state and local governments or the amount of money to give in a federal unemployment benefit.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Mnuchin spoke on the phone for about an hour Wednesday morning, talks Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill called “productive.”

One major area of disagreement between the two parties was the “need for a national strategic testing plan,” Hammill said. Pelosi, the Democrats’ lead negotiator along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, plans to speak with Mnuchin again Thursday.

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More:McConnell says Senate will vote on a $500 billion coronavirus aid plan before Election Day as Trump tells GOP to ‘go big or go home’

Pelosi faced some criticism from Democrats for refusing to budge on the proposal.

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus,  urged Democrats to take the White House’s $1.8 trillion deal and build on it if Democrats win the White House in November, rather than leaving before the election without a deal in hand.

“I’d rather (constituents) get some stimulus check, get some rent assistance than nothing,” Khanna said on CNN Wednesday morning.

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