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    Mnuchin Rejects Pelosi Offer to Split Difference on Stimulus

    (Bloomberg) -- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected an offer from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to roughly split the difference in the price tags of the Democratic and Republican coronavirus relief plans as they returned to talks aimed at striking a deal.“That’s a non-starter,” Mnuchin said Friday as he headed for another round of talks with Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.The talks, which also include White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, resumed after a session Thursday night that broke up with little progress made on bridging differences on major parts of stimulus plan, leaving the negotiations on the brink of collapse.Pelosi and Schumer said that during those talks they offered to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion proposal if Republicans would raise the top-line number of their plan by $1 trillion.“We are willing to make compromises,” Schumer said at a news conference. “The speaker made a very fair offer.”President Donald Trump said Thursday he’d act unilaterally to extend enhanced unemployment benefits, impose a payroll-tax holiday and restore a moratorium on evictions if Republicans and Democrats can’t come to terms on a new stimulus bill. But there’s been no word from the White House about when he might act.Timeline PressingMeadows and Mnuchin had said they were striving to get agreement on the broad outlines of a package by Friday, which would give time for legislation to be drawn up and voted on as soon as next week. But they left a three-hour meeting Thursday night with Pelosi and Schumer having drawn no closer on the biggest issues.That includes on the overall size of the package. Schumer said a majority of Democrats won’t vote for a package of less than $2 trillion. The party controls the House and their votes would be needed to get any legislation through the Republican-led Senate, given internal GOP divisions.Shifts in timing for specific spending initiatives can affect the top number, Pelosi said. The House passed a $3.5 trillion bill back in May. Meadows indicated to reporters Friday that such timing shifts shouldn’t count as real offers to reduce proposed spending levels.Senate Republicans wouldn’t be able to back any deal of $2 trillion or more, given that as much as $1 trillion of the March stimulus package remains unspent, according to a GOP aide in that chamber. Schumer pointed out that some of Republican senators would be unlikely to support a bill regardless of size.Source of TensionAid for state and local governments was a major source of antagonism Thursday. Pelosi said Friday Democrats still demand $915 billion while Republicans are only offering $150 billion. Mnuchin said Trump won’t agree to a “bailout” for budget difficulties unrelated to the pandemic, though he’s open to some aid related to Covid-19 and to help firefighters and police.There also are differences on the Democrats’ demand to extend the $600 a week supplemental unemployment bonus that has expired, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s insistence on a temporary liability shield for companies, schools and other organizations.A bigger-than-expected gain in U.S. jobs in July, shown in a government release Friday morning, may influence the direction of further talks. The report showed a 1.76 million jump in payrolls, beating most estimates. The unemployment rate fell to 10.2%, though that’s still higher than at the peak of the Great Recession in 2009. And higher-frequency data are turning more negative, as businesses use up the last of their federal loans and reduced jobless benefits pressure consumer spending.Trading BarbsBoth parties continued to send brickbats each other’s way all week, and that continued Thursday night with both sides assigning blame for the failure to make progress.“They were unwilling to meet in the middle, they said it mostly has to be their way and they admitted that,” said Schumer.Meadows said Trump may go through with taking executive action after “coming to the realization that perhaps some of our Democrats both in the House and Senate are not serious about compromise and are not serious about trying to meet the needs of the American people.”The rest of Congress is in a period of suspended animation waiting for a resolution. Senators jetted home Thursday afternoon, joining House members who departed Washington last week.McConnell is leaving the negotiating to the White House and Democrats, who control the House. He said senators would subject to recall for any votes.House leaders have also said members would return with 24 hours notice once there’s a deal to vote on.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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