Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is hoping to keep the table open for a "bipartisan agreement" on additional stimulus relief legislation, despite the weeks-long stall in negotiations. Speaking with lawmakers Tuesday, Mnuching said that he wishes for discussions to continue and claimed that he still supports enhanced unemployment benefits and the second round of stimulus payments.
Mnuchin made the remarks during a hearing of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Tuesday, during which he vowed to "continue to work with the Senate and House on a bipartisan basis for a phase four relief package," according to CNN. Mnuchin said that he believes "a bipartisan agreement still should be reached," adding that further legislation should provide funding for schools, testing, vaccines, and child care. Forbes reports that he also dubbed enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus payments "critical to the economic recovery."
Both provisions had gained bipartisan support in the weeks following the passing of the CARES Act. While Democrats and Republicans had sought a similar provision when it came to stimulus checks, their views differed on unemployment benefits, with the HEROES Act seeking to renew the $600 payment at least through the end of the year. In contrast, the HEALS Act sought to renew it at a reduced rate before implementing a different formula beginning in October. However, talks broke down in early August on Capitol Hill, leaving the fate of both hanging in limbo.
During the Tuesday hearing, Mnuchin expressed a desire to restart those negotiations, which have completely stalled. He told lawmakers that he is "prepared to sit down with the speaker at any time to negotiate." He added that "the President and I do support additional fiscal response and we've been working hard to try to get a negotiated agreement on a bipartisan basis."
Later in the hearing, following questioning from Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California, Mnuchin indicated his intention to call House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi later confirmed that the call did take place, though she indicated that it wasn't necessarily productive. She expressed issue with Mnuchin "saying, 'Let's do a little now and a little later,'" holding firm to the belief that a much broader package is needed rather than a slimmer bill targeting only a handful of issues. She added that "sadly, this phone call made clear that Democrats and the White House continue to have serious differences understanding the gravity of the situation that America's working families are facing."