As an agreement on a comprehensive coronavirus relief package remained elusive on Wednesday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the White House could use unspent CARES Act funds to provide immediate relief, including direct payments to people.
The Treasury Secretary said $300 billion from the first package remains unspent – money that could be repurposed for items like PPP loans, another round of stimulus checks, airline aid or job support.
However, distributing those funds would require congressional approval.
“We could get that money into the economy quickly,” Mnuchin told FOX Business’s Lou Dobbs.
The Treasury Secretary said Democrats’ resistance could be politically motivated, noting they may believe stimulus aid distributed in the weeks leading up to the election could provide a boost to President Trump’s poll numbers.
Trump has instructed the administration to “keep at” negotiations until there is a consensus, Mnuchin said, with discussions expected to continue on Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Mnuchin suggested agreement on a broader stimulus package was unlikely before the election.
During a speech at The Milken Institute, Mnuchin said he spent an hour on the phone with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Wednesday, but added that securing an agreement before the election might be a stretch.
Disagreements run deeper than top-line spending amounts and include several disparate spending priorities.
Mnuchin pointed specifically to funding for state and local governments, which has been a point of contention for months, as one main area of disagreement.
He said Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have taken an “all-or-nothing” approach to negotiations.
Pelosi appeared resistant to compromise on a $2.2 trillion proposal during a tense interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.
Pelosi referenced provisions in the GOP bill, including two tax measures and the administration’s alleged unwillingness to address the coronavirus crisis, as seemingly irreconcilable differences in ongoing negotiations.