Mnuchin says GOP coronavirus relief plan ready as unemployment boost runs out — ‘We can move very quickly’
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin prepares to testify before the House Small Business Committee at the U.S. Capitol on July 17, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday said Republicans have now finalized their latest piece of coronavirus relief legislation, worth about $1 trillion, and intend to introduce it Monday.
“We do have an entire plan,” Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The [Trump] administration and the Senate Republicans are completely on the same page,” he said after delays in rolling out the plan last week.
Republicans had hoped to release their official proposal as soon as last Thursday, but that did not happen as the clock ticked on the weekly unemployment boost that has kept many Americans afloat during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the White House had requested more time to “review the fine details.”
Mnuchin said Sunday that he hopes Congress can work in a bipartisan manner to approve the GOP proposal, which is expected to have another round of $1,200 stimulus checks for Americans and liability protections for businesses and schools among other provisions.
It also will modify the federal unemployment insurance supplement to include about 70% wage replacement for individuals, he said, instead of the $600 boost in weekly benefits for all recipients. That benefit, which was a key component of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, came to an end over the weekend.
“We can move very quickly with the Democrats on these issues. We’ve moved quickly before and I see no reason why we can’t move quickly again. And if there are issues that take longer, we’ll deal with those as well,” Mnuchin said.
White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow on CNN earlier Sunday called the Republican proposal a “very well rounded package.” He also said the Trump administration intends to extend the federal moratorium on evictions, but didn’t specify whether that would be in this legislation.
Mnuchin said some pieces of the legislation, such as the unemployment benefits and liability protection, are a higher priority than other issues. A deal could be done in parts to expedite the negotiating process, he said.
“This will be the fifth set of legislation so there’s no reason why can’t have number five, six and seven as we need to deal with issues,” he said. “And obviously, anything we do we need bipartisan support.”
But Democrats have expressed opposition to a piecemeal approach. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats have been “anxious to negotiate” with Republicans since mid-May, when the lower chamber approved a $3 trillion coronavirus rescue package. The bill, passed almost entirely with Democratic votes, went nowhere in the GOP-controlled Senate.
“They’re in disarray and that delay is causing suffering for America’s families,” Pelosi said of the Republicans’ struggle to put a plan together on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “We have been ready for two months and 10 days.”
Pelosi added that the House, which has a recess scheduled for August, “can’t go home without” the next piece of coronavirus legislation being approved. On Thursday, Pelosi said a deal cannot be done piecemeal and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said “we have to address it as a totality.”
Pelosi also appeared to push back Sunday on the Republican’s plan for the federal unemployment supplement, suggesting that calculating a specific amount for each person would be difficult.
“The reason we had $600 was its simplicity and figuring out 70% of somebody’s wages, people don’t all make a salary. They makes wages, and they sometimes have it vary,” she said. “So why don’t we just keep it simple?”
Republicans contend that continuing the $600 weekly benefit could inhibit the U.S. economic recovery since some workers may make more money on unemployment insurance than they did on the job.
House Democrats in their May legislation extended the $600 weekly benefit through January. Senate Democrats have proposed linking the level of the federal supplement to state unemployment rates; under the proposal, the weekly benefit would be reduced as economic conditions in a state improve.