Treasury Secretary says Democrats must make the next move on stimulus talks

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Democrats will need to be the ones to make the next move if stimulus talks between the Trump administration and congressional Democrats are to restart. He said Democratic leaders need to accept a lower amount of assistance for state and local governments.

“Anytime they have another offer to make, they can either call me or I’ll go up and see them,” Mnuchin said. “But they have to compromise.”

“I think we’ve been very clear that they need to come back with a compromise on the state and local from their trillion dollars, and the unemployment benefits, and if so we’ll respond. I think the majority of the other issues, we’ve reached a compromise on,” Mnuchin said at the White House Sunday.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Mnuchin said that although governors are asking for money, they do not need $1 trillion.

“I’ve also spoke to many governors over the last few days. We offered more money for the states. They still have $150 billion from last time. Most of them haven’t even used half of the money,” Mnuchin said, “The governors are saying we need more money for education. We need help, and the President said, we’ll give it to you. But not a trillion dollars.”

Democrats hope to resume talks

When asked if Democrats were willing to continue to keep negotiating a coronavirus relief bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday, “Well, we have to. We have to, and that’s why we we’re willing to say we’ll come down a trillion.” The Democrats had previously been pushing for a three trillion dollar bill but had offered to bring it down a trillion during negotiations.

Pelosi also criticized the White House’s actions which aim to implement a temporary payroll tax deferral and to set up a new program for states to give extra help to those unemployed and to address the possibility of widespread evictions.

“Everything is left out, our assistance to the schools, feeding the hungry, helping people who are going to be evicted,” Pelosi said on “State of the Union.” “The President’s moratorium, he just did a study or a look at a moratorium. So again, something’s wrong.”

Pelosi also said she is standing firm on $600 in extra unemployment benefits, rather than negotiating another amount.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer slammed the Republican stimulus proposal on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” adding that negotiators from the President’s office were unwilling to meet in the middle.

“I said to them, this means it’s your way or the highway? And they basically said yes. That is not the way to create a deal,” the New York Democrat said.

“But we’re willing to come down a trillion dollars and we’ll compromise and meet them halfway. They don’t want to meet halfway, they don’t want to meet any way and that’s what the American people should understand, that we’ve made a big offer, a huge offer, in an effort to get this thing going,” Schumer said.

Trade adviser pushes for negotiations

In a separate interview, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro also weighed in on the stalled stimulus negotiations on Capitol Hill, first implying that he thinks White House officials and Democratic leaders should have met in the middle on a top line amount for the bill.

“Look, this should be easier than it is … . We’ve got two sides. You know, one’s at $1 trillion and another’s at $3 trillion and the first thing you have to do is agree on some number in between,” Navarro said, in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He added that then the sides could find common ground and bring proposals to the table.

Pressed on reports that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was the one who shut down Democrats’ offer to meet in the middle on a price tag, Navarro disputed the accuracy of the story and later defended the former North Carolina congressman as a “great negotiator.”

Navarro said he thinks there is “no need” for President Donald Trump to continue to take executive action if Congress moves forward and reaches a legislative deal, but managed expectations, saying “let’s not go there.”

“What we need is a sincere negotiation. We have to believe that both sides actually want a deal and there is this theory, Chuck, that the Democrats would prefer to see the economy go into the tank for another 90 days because that harms the President,” Navarro claimed, adding he hopes congressional politicians haven’t become that cynical.

Mnuchin and Navarro both defended the President’s executive actions which have been criticized as unconstitutional and some experts have predicted will be taken to court.

Navarro said he is confident each of Trump’s coronavirus relief executive actions will stand up to legal challenges.

“I would say if the Democrats want to challenge us in court” that “they’re going to have a lot of explaining to do,” Mnuchin told Fox. “We cleared with the (Justice Department’s) Office of Legal Counsel all these actions before they went to the President,” he added.

On the controversy concerning a payroll tax holiday which would deprive Social Security of some funds, Navarro said the administration has the authority to suspend that tax through the Treasury Department and claimed the President supports “nothing more strongly” than the integrity of Social Security benefits.

When pressed on the concern that payroll tax suspension would destroy Social Security and Medicare, as that tax is the primary funding for those government services, Mnuchin responded, “That’s just factually inaccurate. There would be no reduction to those benefits.”