WASHINGTON – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he presented a new US$916 billion (S$1.22 trillion) Covid-19 relief proposal to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in the first move by the Trump administration since Election Day to break a months-long standoff.
Mr Mnuchin said in a tweeted statement that he had conferred with Republican congressional leaders on the plan, as well as President Donald Trump. He said that he spoke with Ms Pelosi at 5pm Tuesday (Dec 8).
“This proposal includes money for state and local governments and robust liability protections for businesses, schools and universities,” Mr Mnuchin said in his statement.
Those two issues have been the two key roadblocks in bipartisan talks on a US$908 billion proposal put forth last week.
“It’s a much better product” than the US$908 billion option, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said in an interview. “I don’t see a reason why Pelosi should be opposed,” he said. He added that he backed the plan 100 per cent.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier Tuesday had floated the idea of setting aside the two elements in a final 2020 aid package – something Democratic leaders quickly rejected.
Mr Mnuchin’s plan ties both provisions so they can either be removed or stay in together, according to Mr McCarthy.
The Mnuchin plan also includes stimulus checks, something that members of both sides of the aisle have favoured – including President-elect Joe Biden and Mr Trump.
Asked about Mr Mnuchin’s plan, a spokesman for Mr McConnell said the leader has no further remarks beyond his statement earlier Tuesday.
Liability protections have been a key priority for Mr McConnell, but opposed by Democrats. Republicans, meantime, have criticised helping states as an improper bailout.
Mr Mnuchin said that he and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had “reviewed” the US$916 billion proposal with Mr Trump, Mr McConnell and Mr McCarthy.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said earlier Tuesday that leaving out state and local aid would hurt essential workers across the nation, including police officers and firefighters, who face job losses.
He accused Mr McConnell of “pulling the rug out” from under the bipartisan group of lawmakers working on the US$908 billion plan. Mr Schumer and Ms Pelosi had backed that framework as a basis for negotiations.
While Mr Mnuchin had led talks for weeks with Ms Pelosi on a stimulus deal before Election Day, the administration thereafter largely left it to Mr McConnell to deal with Democrats on the matter.
The Senate majority leader has repeatedly called for support for his own, smaller and more targeted proposal. He also refrained from endorsing the bipartisan pitch as a base for talks even as some GOP members warmed to the idea.