Treasury Secretary Suggests White House is Open To Deal on New State and Local Aid

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, walks from the office of Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Ky., as he leaves the Capitol, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Washington. Mnuchin earlier met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, walks from the office of Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Ky., as he leaves the Capitol, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Washington. Mnuchin earlier met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Steven Mnuchin's remarks on Wednesday come as talks are restarting over the possibility of a coronavirus assistance package ahead of the upcoming election.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday indicated that the White House is open to a coronavirus relief package that includes some level of aid funding for state and local governments.

His comments come as fresh talks are underway between the Trump administration and Democrats in Congress over possibly moving forward with another broad coronavirus relief package before the November election. Discussions between Democrats and Republicans about this sort of legislation stalled over the summer.

“The issue of money for state and local government is something that there is a divide on, we’re going to try to come up with a compromise on that,” Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC’s Becky Quick, according to a transcript of the interview.

Mnuchin noted that the Treasury Department has tried to give states and localities more flexibility to use a prior round of federal aid, allotted back in March, to pay the salaries of first responders, like firemen and police.

“The President doesn’t want to see these people laid off,” he added. “These are critical emergency workers that are really working around the clock to support all of us right now. So we will be allocating some more money in a compromised package to pay for that.”

House Democrats on Monday laid down a new marker in the talks over a relief bill when they released a revised version of legislation that the chamber approved back in May. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said in a statement on Wednesday that the House would proceed with a vote later in the day on that updated legislation. But that planned vote was later postponed, according to multiple news  reports

Pelosi also said she and Mnucnin “had an extensive conversation” about a relief package on Wednesday during a 90-minute meeting.

“We found areas where we are seeking further clarification,” she added. “Our conversations will continue.”

That Democrats’ new bill would funnel $417 billion to states, counties and municipalities, a sum that is about half the state and local aid that Democrats included in their earlier package.

Despite the lower level of proposed aid, state and local government advocacy groups seemed to be generally supportive of the updated measure and the newly emerging talks.

“We appreciate the House of Representatives for putting forth a new proposed relief package,” New York governor and National Governors Association Chairman Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said in a statement with Arkansas Governor and NGA’s Vice Chairman Asa Hutchinson, a Republican. 

“It's our hope that the latest proposal will reenergize the negotiations,” they added. “We urge the Senate and the White House to meet them at the negotiating table."

The National Association of Counties and U.S. Conference of Mayors made similar statements.

Democrats, who control the House, and Republicans, who command the Senate, have been far apart on reaching a compromise on a new relief package.

The Democrats’ updated proposal features $2.2 trillion in total spending. The prior version of their bill checked in around $3 trillion. Republicans over the summer backed a $1.1 trillion relief package, which did not include new direct aid for state and local governments.

Aid to state and local governments, in particular, has been a sticking point during talks between the two sides, with Republicans reluctant to send more federal dollars to states and localities.

Mnuchin characterized the new negotiations as a last ditch effort of sorts to get agreement on a deal ahead of the November election. “We’re gonna give it one more serious try to get this done,” he said in the CNBC interview. “We’re hopeful that we can get something done.” 

“I think there’s a reasonable compromise here,” he added. “We’re gonna try to see if we can get something passed.”

Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

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