Pelosi Rebuffs Mnuchin ‘Overture’ With Relief Talks in Limbo

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she rebuffed an “overture” from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to restart talks on a new round of U.S. pandemic relief because the White House hadn’t budged from demands for a smaller stimulus.

“We have made clear to the administration that we are willing to come down $1 trillion if they will come up $1 trillion,” Pelosi said Wednesday in a joint statement with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. “We are willing to resume negotiations once they start to take this process seriously.”

Mnuchin called Pelosi, but a Democratic lawmaker said there would be no talks until the White House raised its offer.

Mnuchin earlier in the day said Congress could pass a relief plan of “a little more than $1 trillion” and deal with any additional stimulus that’s needed later.

“We can always come back later in the year or January and do a sixth bill,” he said on Fox Business Network. “We don’t have to do everything at once.”

Pelosi and Schumer have repeatedly rejected a more constrained package of measures.

There have been no negotiations since a Friday meeting that ended in stalemate, and the impasse risks dragging on for weeks. Both parties also have their presidential nominating conventions in the next two weeks, pulling some attention away from the relief-package talks.

Pelosi said Wednesday that there’s a “chasm” separating the two sides, but also that she’s hopeful a compromise can be reached. She told reporters that relief can’t wait until the fall — when stimulus measures conceivably could be added to annual government spending bills.

The White House says Democrats must reduce demands for state and local aid and for $600 a week in unemployment relief to restart the talks. But Pelosi and Schumer said the aid is needed to prevent additional layoffs by local governments and cut backs in service.

“We have to come to a conclusion, but they have to recognize that we have to defeat the virus, we have to invest in our state and local governments and we have to put money in the pockets of the American people to keep the economy going,” Pelosi said earlier on MSNBC.

President Donald Trump for the time being appears content to let his executive actions deferring payroll taxes and providing a temporary $300 a week boost in unemployment aid to play out. With the stock market climbing toward all-time highs this month, there has been no pressure on him from that quarter. During Wednesday’s trading, the S&P 500 Index was heading for a record close at one point.

Cost Estimate

Mnuchin Wednesday reiterated the administration’s call for Congress ultimately to forgive the payroll tax liabilities that Trump deferred in an executive memo issued over the weekend. That could cost $100 billion, according to an estimate from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Mnuchin also said that the Treasury is working on guidelines for the payroll tax deferral. A key challenge for the department will be how to assuage some employers’ concerns they could get stuck with large bills once the deferral period ends, if they passed the savings along to employees.

The Treasury chief also indicated that Trump’s executive order, which delayed levies that fund Social Security for those earning up to $104,000 from Sept. 1 through year-end, would be optional for companies to implement.

“We’re going to create a level of certainty for small businesses who want to do this,” he said.

— With assistance by Billy House

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