Tags: Coronavirus | Donald Trump | Trump Administration | steven mnuchin | mitch mcconnell | senate | stimulus

Mnuchin: Trump Would Sign McConnell's Skinny COVID Relief

steven mnuchin delivers remarks at a news conference in front of an american flag
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Thomas Kienzle/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 02 December 2020 05:34 PM

Amid the uncertainty of stalled coronavirus stimulus talks, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sees the surest path to quick relief to American people in the legislation proposed by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

"The president will sign the McConnell proposal that he put forward [Tuesday]," Mnuchin told reporters Wednesday, should the proposed package pass the U.S. Congress.

"We look forward to making progress on that."

McConnell, who has been pushing a $500 billion approach Democrats reject, began circulating new draft legislation Tuesday after a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers unveiled a $908 billion bipartisan package.

Mnuchin spoke a day after he and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows addressed COVID-19 relief with McConnell and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in a private discussion that focused on measures President Donald Trump could be expected to sign into law.

McConnell's outline is very close to the legislation the Senate leader has been touting for months and was rejected by Democrats, according to one Senate Republican source. The plan includes $332.7 billion in new loans or grants to small businesses, according to a document provided to Reuters.

Joe Biden's top Capitol Hill allies cut their demands for a $2 trillion-plus measure by more than half in hopes of breaking a monthslong logjam.

Biden said the developing aid package "wouldn't be the answer, but it would be the immediate help for a lot of things."

Biden's remarks followed an announcement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in support of an almost $1 trillion approach as the "basis" for discussions. The announcement appeared aimed at budging Sen. McConnell, who so far has been unwilling to abandon a $550 million Senate GOP plan that has failed twice this fall.

The Democrats embraced a $908 billion approach from moderate Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, among others. It would establish a $300 per week jobless benefit, send $160 billion to help state and local governments, boost schools and universities, revive popular "paycheck protection" subsidies for businesses, and bail out transit systems and airlines.

"In the spirit of compromise we believe the bipartisan framework introduced by Senators [Tuesday] should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations," Pelosi and Schumer said.

They said they would try to build upon the approach, which has support in the House from a bipartisan "problem solvers" coalition.

The statement was a significant concession by Pelosi and Schumer, who played hardball this fall during failed preelection discussions with the administration on a costlier bill. They wanted a more generous unemployment benefit and far more for state and local government. Their embrace of the $908 billion measure was a retreat from a secret offer the two Democrats gave McConnell on Monday.

The new plan includes a liability shield for businesses and other organizations that have reopened their doors during the pandemic. It is the first time Pelosi and Schumer have shown a willingness to consider the idea.

McConnell had dismissed the bipartisan offer Tuesday, instead aiming to rally Republicans around the $550 billion GOP proposal. But McConnell himself endorsed a $1 trillion-or so plan this summer, only to encounter resistance from conservatives that prompted him to retrench. He has acknowledged another infusion of aid to states and local governments, a key Pelosi demand, probably will pass eventually.

McConnell would not respond when asked about the Democratic statement. His top deputy, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said GOP leaders might agree to merging the bipartisan proposal with McConnell's bill.

"I think there's still time, although it's short, to put a bill together," Thune said.

Any relief package would be attached to a $1.4 trillion year-end spending bill required to avert a government shutdown next weekend. Talks on that measure are proceeding but if lawmakers should stumble, a temporary spending bill would be needed as a bridge into next year.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers proposed a split-the-difference solution to the protracted impasse, hoping to speed overdue help to a hurting nation before Congress adjourns for the holidays. It was a sign that some lawmakers were reluctant to adjourn for the year without approving some pandemic aid.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used throughout this report.

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US
Amid the uncertainty of stalled coronavirus stimulus talks, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sees the surest path to quick relief to American people in the legislation proposed by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
steven mnuchin, mitch mcconnell, senate, stimulus, relief, pandemic
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2020-34-02
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 05:34 PM
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