Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the White House won’t let disagreements over COVID-19 test funding derail stimulus package negotiations with top Democrats after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi identified testing as a main sticking point during weeks of deadlocked discussions on a Thursday episode of CNBC's Squawk Box.
"That issue is getting overblown," Mnuchin said. "We’ve agreed to $178 billion overall for health. It’s an extraordinary amount of money. We’d agreed with the Democrats with $75 billion going to testing, contact tracing." He continued that the focus has been on the "language around testing," ceding to the Speaker, "When I speak to Pelosi today, I’m going to tell her that we’re not going to let the testing issue stand in the way. We’ll fundamentally agree with their testing language subject to some minor issues. This issue is being overblown."
After House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion relief bill, negotiations between the Donald Trump White House administration and Congress have been deadlocked for weeks, with a spokesman for Pelosi saying Wednesday that a "national strategic testing plan" was a key difference in the seemingly fading hope that a deal would be reached before Election Day.
"One major area of disagreement continues to be that the White House lacks an understanding of the need for a national strategic testing plan," spokesman Drew Hammill wrote on Twitter. "The Speaker believes we must reopen our economy & schools safely & soon, & scientists agree we must have a strategic testing plan."
Trump has now said that he would raise his offer for a stimulus package above his current offer of $1.8 trillion, telling Fox Business Wednesday, "I would. Absolutely I would. I would say more. I would go higher. Go big or go home, I said it yesterday." He then accused Pelosi of refusing to negotiate with the election looming. "Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to give anything. She thinks it helps her with the election," he continued. "And I don’t think so. I think it hurts her with the election because everyone knows she’s holding it up. We’re not holding it up. She’s holding it up." Trump also shared his displeasure with Mnuchin, saying, "So far he hasn’t come home with the bacon."
On Oct. 6, Trump tweeted he had instructed his representatives to "stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business." After being criticized for seemingly holding negotiations hostage during a pivotal time for suffering Americans, Trump took to Twitter again and called for Congress to send him a "Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200)," calling on Congress to immediately approve $25 billion for airlines and $135 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program to help small businesses. "I am ready to sign right now. Are you listening Nancy?" he wrote.