After a week of negotiations between the White House and House Democrats, with mixed signals from Trump, Pelosi and Mnuchin resumed talks and seem to be jumping hurdles. Will they finally be able to reach an agreement?
According to CNBC, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday that the White House won’t let differences over funding targets for Covid-19 testing derail stimulus talks with top Democrats.
This comes after the House speaker’s spokesman, Drew Hammill, said that “one major area of disagreement continues to be that the White House lacks an understanding of the need for a national strategic testing plan” for Covid-19.
“That issue is getting overblown,” Mnuchin said. “We’ve agreed to $178 billion overall for health. It’s an extraordinary amount of money. We’d agreed with the Democrats with $75 billion going to testing, contact tracing.”
Nancy Pelosi, the lead negotiator for Democrats, had identified testing as one of the main sticking points in talks, and with this comment in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Mnuchin appeared to cede ground to the speaker.
“What we have been focused on is the language around testing,” he added. “When I speak to Pelosi today, I’m going to tell her that we’re not going to let the testing issue stand in the way. We’ll fundamentally agree with their testing language subject to some minor issues.”
Mnuchin said this after the Labor Department’s jobless claims report seems to show the U.S. labor market may be slowing, and the public health crisis shows few signs of dimming. Both things make clear the need for a new relief bill.
Mnuchin’s comments about the White House’s thoughts on funding for testing could provide some hope for the talks.
However, if the Trump Administration and House Democrats do finally strike a deal, they would still need the bill to be approved by the Senate and this doesn’t seem like an easy thing, as the White House and Senate Republicans appear to be out of sync over fiscal support.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he doesn’t believe a bill could be passed before the elections and favors a far smaller deal than either the White House or Democrats advocate.