Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would listen to any proposal offered by Democrats on coronavirus relief, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hopes negotiations with the White House resume soon.
Neither gave a firm date, however, for talks to restart during interviews on Sunday political talk shows, a day after President Donald Trump took executive actions on relief to work around the Congressional impasse. As of late Sunday morning, there was no scheduled resumption of in-person talks between Pelosi, Schumer and White House negotiators, according to Pelosi’s office.
“We have to come to an agreement. We have to meet half-way,” Pelosi said on “Fox News Sunday.” Separately, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” she said that “of course there’s room for compromise.”
Democrats and Republicans are trillions of dollars apart on overall spending and on key issues, including on aid to state and local governments and the amount of supplementary unemployment benefits.
On Fox, Mnuchin chided Democrats for their intransigence over weeks of talks, particularly on state and local government funding, which some Republicans have termed a bailout for Democratic states. He urged Pelosi to help pass a bill on “things we agree on” before returning to some of the most contentious issues.
“On almost every other single issue we’ve reached an agreement,” Mnuchin said. “Any time they have a new proposal, I’m willing to listen.”
The impasse on the cost of a bill sets up the potential for more weeks of negotiations that yield little progress on reaching a deal on the next phase of stimulus relief. Lawmakers also face a Sept. 30 deadline to renew government funding, setting up a hard deadline to agree on a wide array of spending or risk a partial government shutdown weeks before the election.
“We are at a stalemate because the Republicans have never understood the gravity of the situation from the start,” Pelosi said on ABC.
Pelosi dismissed the idea that a resolution could wait until late September, saying that stimulus measures and government funding are “two separate issues.”
Trump’s actions on Saturday related to expanded unemployment benefits to jobless Americans at $400 a week; a temporary payroll tax deferral for certain workers; eviction protection; and student-loan relief.
Those moves were “unworkable, weak and far too narrow,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Democrats and some Republicans -- notably, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska -- have termed Trump’s actions unconstitutional. Pelosi and Schumer stopped short of saying that Democrats would attempt to stop them in court.
“Whether they are legal or not, it takes time to figure out,” Pelosi said on CNN. “Right now we want to address the needs of the American people.”
Mnuchin says all the executive actions were cleared by legal counsel before Trump signed them, but White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on ABC that the administration may have to prepare a legal defense for the orders.
“Maybe we’re going to go to court on them. We’re going to go ahead with our actions anyway,” Kudlow said. “Our counsel’s office, the Treasury Department believes it has the authority to temporarily suspend tax collections. So we’re banking on that.”
Still, Trump’s authority is far more narrow than Congress and some measures, such as a second round of $1,200 checks that Republicans and Democrats both support, will have to wait until the two parties can agree on legislation. Some economists have said that, by acting unilaterally, Trump could get lawmakers back to the table.
“If these policies are indeed implemented, this suggests that they might force Congress to act by then to avoid further disruptions,” economists at Goldman Sachs said in a research note on Saturday.