WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — For a second day in a row, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell spoke to Congress about coronavirus relief.
Mnuchin and Powell testified before the House Committee on Financial Services Wednesday morning, for a hearing on their agencies’ pandemic response measures.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress remained unable to reach agreement on fresh relief for a pandemic-hit U.S. economy, with top Republicans supporting what the Senate’s top Democrats dismissed as an “inadequate, partisan proposal.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said outgoing Republican President Donald Trump supported a proposal put forth by Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after McConnell on Tuesday rejected a $908 billion bipartisan package.
McConnell’s outline is very close to the legislation that the Senate leader has been touting for months and was rejected by Democrats, according to one Senate Republican source. The plan includes $332.7 billion in new loans or grants to small businesses, according to a document provided to Reuters.
“The president will sign the McConnell proposal that he put forward yesterday. We look forward to making progress on that,” Mnuchin told reporters on Capitol Hill.
But Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer blasted the Republican effort for excluding Democrats, who control the U.S. House of Representatives.
“The Republican leader should not waste the Senate’s time on another inadequate, partisan proposal and instead should sit down with Democrats to begin a true bipartisan effort to quickly meet the needs of the country,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. He noted that the McConnell proposal includes liability protection for businesses that Democrats reject.
Adding to the pressure, the two parties face a Dec. 11 deadline to pass a $1.4 trillion budget or risk a shutdown of the government as the COVID-19 crisis worsens across the United States.
McConnell, who has been pushing a $500 billion approach that Democrats reject, began circulating new draft legislation on Tuesday after a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers unveiled the $908 billion bipartisan package.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, that chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, told reporters on Wednesday he hoped the House and Senate leaders could agree on a coronavirus aid bill by the end of this weekend that would be folded into the budget package.
“I am hopeful that in the next few days that we will be able to come to an agreement on a bill that responds to the major crisis, at least in the short term,” Hoyer said.
On Tuesday, Mnuchin and Powellthe testified on COVID-19 relief needs before a Senate panel, urging Congress to approve another round of targeted aid for American households and businesses.
Mnuchin recommended tapping into $455 billion of unused emergency relief funds.
During the hearing, he also defended his decision to close down a number of emergency Federal Reserve loan programs when the country is seeing a spike in coronavirus cases. Mnuchin said the programs he decided not to extend were being lightly utilized, and that the money could be better put elsewhere.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers pressured congressional leaders Tuesday to accept a compromise to end the impasse before Congress adjourns for the holidays.
The group including Senate centrists such as Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, are pushing a $908 billion measure, including $228 billion to extend and upgrade “paycheck protection” subsidies for a second round of relief for hard-hit businesses like restaurants.
It would revive a special jobless benefit, but at a reduced level of $300 per week, half the amount enacted in March. State and local governments would receive $160 billion, and there is also money for vaccines.