With no clear path to another round of coronavirus relief before the upcoming presidential election, two White House officials are urging Congressional lawmakers to put aside their political differences and find common ground.
On October 11, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows addressed House and Senate members in a joint statement, expressing the need for a bipartisan bill tailored toward school and airline assistance, extended federal unemployment benefits and another round of direct stimulus checks.
The pair called on legislators to repurpose unused funds from the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program, passed under the CARES Act back in March.
“Now is the time for us to come together and immediately vote on a bill to allow us to spend the unused Paycheck Protection Program funds while we continue to work toward a comprehensive package,” Mnuchin and Meadows said.
Negotiations have yet again stalled after both Republicans and Democrats dismissed the White House’s recent $1.8 trillion proposal to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to The Washington Post.
Mnuchin and Meadows said lawmakers cannot rest until “we get everyone back to work,” noting that “certain parts of the economy are still in need of additional support.”
They also blamed House Democrats for the deadlock, criticizing Pelosi’s unwillingness to compromise on “many different White House proposals.”
“The House has passed two separate partisan bills instead of compromising with us on bipartisan legislation like we have done in the past,” they stated. “We will continue to try to work with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer.”
In September, House Democrats began drafting an updated $2.2 trillion HEROES Act, a slightly smaller bill from their initial $3 trillion proposal. The overall price tag for the next round of relief has been a major sticking point among negotiators, with several failed attempts to pass Democrats’ revised HEROES Act, Mnuchin’s $1.6 trillion counterproposal and Senate Republicans’ former “skinny bill.”
“It is not just about the topline member, but also about legislation that can be passed by both the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Trump,” Mnuchin and Meadows continued.
“The all-or-nothing approach is an unacceptable response to the American people.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Democrats Blame Republicans for the Stalemate
Democrats have a very different view of all of this. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has consistently argued that Republicans are trying to shortchange the American people by not offering enough relief, and she’s refused to budge.
“We can’t have a deal that goes backward,” Pelosi said recently, according to The Washington Post.
The Post reported that Pelosi believes the Republican proposals will hurt “underprivileged” people.
“This is about a pandemic in case you haven’t noticed. This is about a pandemic where we are trying to compensate the states for the money that they spent on the pandemic and the revenue that they lost,” Pelosi said Wednesday night on MSNBC, according to The Post. “That’s one thing that the president, they’ve all just ignored. The president said, ‘I’m not paying blue states,’ all that stuff. They haven’t taken this seriously.”
About $130 Billion is Left Over From the First Round of PPP Relief
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow previously disclosed that there is roughly $130 billion “sloshing around” from the first round of PPP, which offers loans to small businesses struggling as a result of the pandemic.
He told Fox Business last month that the leftover money can be repurposed for targeted relief, including testing efforts, school masks and extending the PPP, claiming, “our side has an efficient targeted assistance package, stuff we think is necessary.”
More than 5.2 million loans were approved by the Small Business Administration during the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program, according to Fox Business. With a total cumulative value of $525 billion, roughly $130 billion have not yet been used, the outlet continued.
On Sunday, October 11, Kudlow expressed stimulus hope on CNN’s State of the Union that Senate Republicans would be willing to settle if a compromise can be reached.
“I don’t think it is dead at all,” the economic adviser said. “If an agreement can be reached, [Senate Republicans] will go along with it.”