Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that he will speak with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about a coronavirus relief deal and is "hopeful" about the prospects of reaching an agreement before the November presidential election.
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“I say we’re going to give it one more serious try to get this done, and I think we’re hopeful that we can get something done,” Mnuchin told CNBC. “I think there is a reasonable compromise here.”
Mnuchin said he aims to find an "understanding" on another round of emergency aid by Thursday, and indicated that Republicans will counter House Democrats' $2.2 trillion proposal with their own relief package that is in line with a $1.5 trillion bill introduced earlier in the month by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.
President Trump has expressed support for the $1.5 trillion plan.
"I think we'll have a very reasonable response, something that's very similar to what has been the bipartisan proposal that the Problem Solvers has worked on," Mnuchin said. "I hope we can get something done."
Mnuchin's comments come amid a high-stakes impasse between the two parties over another round of emergency relief for American workers and families still reeling from the virus-induced crisis. Although Democrats and Republicans broadly agree that another bill is necessary to aid the economy's recovery, they sharply disagree over the size and scope of it.
House Democrats drafted a $2.2 trillion package this week that includes extended federal unemployment benefits, a fresh round of $1,200 stimulus checks and additional funding for state and local governments in hopes of jumpstarting negotiations.
But the White House and Republican leaders want to keep the price tag closer to $1 trillion amid growing concerns among some lawmakers over the nation's ballooning deficit, which is projected to hit a record-shattering $3.3 trillion this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The Problem Solvers Caucus, a 50-member bipartisan group that's evenly divided between House Republicans and Democrats, unveiled a $1.5 trillion compromise at the beginning of September. The bill would include a fresh round of $1,200 stimulus checks, expanded federal unemployment aid at $450 per week until states could adopt a more complicated system that would provide up to $600 a week (as long as it didn't exceed a worker's former salary), reopen the Paycheck Protection Program and provide additional funding for state and local governments.
At the time, Pelosi panned the legislation and rejected calls from moderate Democrats to hold a vote on the smaller relief bill.
But the California Democrat said during an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday that she is "hopeful" the two sides could finalize a stimulus proposal this week, though she also struck a cautious note.
“We’ll just see what they come back with today and how our negotiations go next,” she said.
Economists have urged lawmakers to cut a deal or risk imperiling the nascent recovery from the shutdown earlier this year.
"The CARES Act really did a lot of good in putting money in people's hands and keeping them in their homes and keeping them spending, keeping them in one piece," Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in congressional testimony last week. "Going forward, more of that may be needed."
Congress is scheduled to be in session through early October.