Friday, 25 Sep 2020

Mnuchin sees possible virus deal, but no talks set with Congress

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday said the Trump administration and Congress could reach a coronavirus aid deal as soon as this week, but Democratic aides said the two sides have not spoken since talks collapsed last Friday.

With negotiations at a standstill, it was unclear whether Democrats and Republicans would be able to bridge their differences to provide relief to workers, businesses and local governments that have been devastated by the pandemic, which has killed at least 162,000 Americans.

Eviction protections and enhanced unemployment assistance both expired at the end of July, slashing aid for more than 30 million people.

President Donald Trump on Saturday signed executive orders and memorandums that aim to boost unemployment benefits, suspend evictions, student loan payments and payroll taxes.

Democrats say that will provide little immediate relief.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday said they were open to restarting talks. But there has been no contact since Friday between the administration and the Capitol Hill negotiators, Democratic aides said Monday morning.

Democrats have passed a $3.4 trillion aid bill through the House, while Republicans countered with a $1 trillion package in the Senate. Both sides support money for schools and coronavirus testing, but remain at odds over enhanced unemployment benefits and aid for state and local governments. Senate Republicans want liability protections for businesses.

Mnuchin, in an interview on CNBC, said there was room for compromise but declined to say when talks could resume.

“I think they’re willing to compromise,” he said. “There is still a lot of things we need to do and that we’ve agreed on.”

Trump, who has not participated in negotiations, said it was up to Pelosi and Schumer to reach out.

“They know my phone number,” he wrote on Twitter.

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