April 19, 2021

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Mnuchin open to restarting negotiations

The Trump administration is open to resuming coronavirus aid talks with Democratic leaders and would offer more aid money to try to reach a compromise, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday. 

“The president is determined to spend what we need to spend. … We’re prepared to put more money on the table,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” 

Mnuchin declined to say when he and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows would restart discussions with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer after negotiations ground to a halt on Friday. He said the Democratic leaders seemed “willing to compromise” as the sides stand trillions of dollars apart in what they want to spend to combat the pandemic’s damage to Americans’ health and wallets. 

“Again, if we can get a fair deal we’re willing to do it this week,” Mnuchin said. 

The Treasury secretary spoke after President Donald Trump tried to offer coronavirus aid through executive order over the weekend. Officials in Washington do not see the president’s actions as a permanent fix, as they are limited in scope and constitutionally questionable. 

Only legislation from Congress, which controls federal spending, would unquestionably enshrine lifelines designed to boost the U.S. health-care system and economy. 

Trump’s orders would extend the extra federal unemployment benefit, which expired at the end of July at a reduced level of $400 per week. The federal government would cover 75% of the payment with disaster relief funds, while states would cover the rest. Mnuchin argued states would have enough money to cover their share of the cost, even though many face budget crunches due to the pandemic. 

The president’s actions also call on administration officials to consider stopping evictions from federally-backed housing and helping renters with aid payments. He did not extend a moratorium on evictions that lapsed late last month. 

The measure would extend a suspension of interest on federal student loans and allow borrowers to delay payments until the end of the year. Student loan holders currently do not have to make payments through Sept. 30. 

Trump’s order also calls for the Treasury to stop collecting the employee portion of the payroll tax until the end of the year for people making less than roughly $104,000 per year. 

Speaking to ABC News on Sunday, Schumer called the president’s actions “paltry” and “unworkable.” 

This story is developing. Please check back for updates. 

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