Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday that he and senior GOP lawmakers will attempt to draft a targeted stimulus package with Democrats in the coming weeks.
Mnuchin explained that he and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows will later Friday convene with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to brainstorm ideas for a more-targeted relief package.
Mnuchin, who with Meadows has led President Donald Trump’s stimulus discussions for months, expressed some optimism that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., may be more open to a compromise following the 2020 elections.
“I can tell you Mark Meadows and I will be speaking with Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy this morning,” he said. “And we are going to come up with a plan to sit down with Pelosi and Schumer and try to get a targeted bill done for the people that really need it. And hopefully the Democrats will work with us.”
Spokespersons for Pelosi and Schumer did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.
Lawmakers have for months struggled to pass additional economic stimulus with little signs of nearing the finish line. Congress passed a historic $2 trillion bill in March known as the CARES Act that included funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, enhanced unemployment benefits and $1,200 direct payments to most U.S. workers.
But many of those stimulus provisions expired or were depleted over the course of the summer, igniting debate on Capitol Hill over whether they need to be revitalized.
Democrats have argued for more robust spending to not only extend unemployment benefits and the PPP, but to also help support state and local governments that have seen steep budgetary deficits due to the coronavirus’s impact on business.
The White House and Senate Republicans, who say they are more concerned about the price tag, have called for smaller, more targeted measures that would restrict aid to the hardest-hit industries like travel, restaurants and hospitality.
“I understand that the Democrats didn’t want us to do anything before the election because they didn’t want to do something that could be helpful to the president,” Mnuchin added Friday morning. “But I had hoped, now that we’re now past the election, that the Democrats would now work with us.”
Democrats control the House and will hold a more narrow majority when the next Congress starts in January. Republicans have a Senate majority now, and two January runoff elections in Georgia will determine whether they keep it for the next two years. Democrats picked up one Senate seat in this month’s elections.
President-elect Joe Biden has backed Democrats’ push for a bill that costs at least $2.2 trillion.
The secretary’s comments were taken with even greater interest Friday morning, less than a day after the Treasury Department said it would not try to extend a handful of lending programs instituted with the Federal Reserve during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
The funding for those programs is set to expire at the end of the year and would require Congress’s approval if Mnuchin wished to prolong their expiration.
The lending facilities cover corporate bond buying, loans to state and local governments and the Main Street Lending Program to small- and medium-sized businesses. The Fed said it wanted the programs extended.