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Mnuchin Says He First Saw Pelosi’s Letter on Coronavirus Stimulus Negotiations ‘In the Press’

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin testifies before a House Financial Services Committee in Washington, D.C., September 22, 2020. (Caroline Brehman/Reuters)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday said that he first learned about a letter House speaker Nancy Pelosi sent to him regarding coronavirus stimulus talks “in the press.”

“I woke up this morning and read @SpeakerPelosi ’s letter to me in the press,” Mnuchin said on Twitter. “Enclosed is my response. Her ALL OR NONE approach is hurting hard-working Americans who need help NOW!”

Pelosi aides said they had sent the letter to Mnuchin shortly after midnight, though the treasury secretary said he first saw the letter when Politico’s morning newsletter Playbook published it just after 6 a.m., according to the Washington Post.

The letter outlined a number of outstanding issues in the negotiations including state and local aid, school funding, child-care money, tax credits for working families, unemployment insurance aid and liability protections for businesses. 

Mnuchin’s letter said that because Pelosi had sent the letter “to my office at midnight and simultaneously released it to the press, I can unfortunately only conclude it is a political stunt.”

He tweeted his letter one minute after sending it to Pelosi’s office. In the letter he mentioned that the pair had negotiated nearly every day over the past 45 days “in an attempt to reach a serious bipartisan compromise,” as coronavirus cases surged and the economy struggled.

Pelosi’s office pushed back against Mnuchin’s response.

“It is disappointing that the White House wasted time on this letter instead of meaningful responses to meet the needs of the American people,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said.

Democrats and Republicans have since remained in political gridlock for months over the size and contents of a second round of stimulus relief. While the White House has offered $1.9 trillion, Democrats have pushed for a more expansive bill at $2.2 trillion.

The California Democrat’s letter outlined the outstanding issues and said she was waiting for an answer from the administration regarding the Democrats’ language on a national coronavirus testing strategy after Mnuchin had said on October 15 that he was ready to accept after some small edits. 

Mnuchin, however, said that the administration had accepted Pelosi’s proposal on dollars and language for coronavirus testing, and had also provided notes on the section on contact tracing. 

He added that he has worked alongside other agencies and committee chairs on responses on several areas of coronavirus relief, including rental assistance, small businesses and funding for the Postal Service. 

“While you accuse the Administration of holding up negotiations, you refuse to bring to the floor of the House stand-alone legislation to support Airline workers, additional Paycheck Protection Program payments to small businesses, and additional Direct Payments that we can fund using already approved money that we have not spent,” Mnuchin wrote.

In her letter Pelosi called on Mnuchin, President Trump, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to create a path forward for negotiations after the November 3 election. 

“Your responses are critical for our negotiations to continue,” Pelosi wrote in her letter. “The President’s words that ‘after the election, we will get the best stimulus package you have ever seen’ only have meaning if he can get Mitch McConnell to take his hand off the pause button and get Senate Republican Chairmen moving toward agreement with their House counterparts.”

Pelosi and Trump on Thursday both expressed hope that a stimulus bill could be passed after the election. 

In a news conference on Thursday, Pelosi said she was optimistic that Joe Biden would win the presidency, but said that she would not pass a small bill with the intent of adding more relief once Biden takes office.

“We’re not talking size, we’re talking quality. We’re not going to take a small bill” that has provisions Democrats have found to be unacceptable, Pelosi said.

“I want a bill for two reasons. First and foremost the American people need help. They need real help. And second of all, we have plenty of work to do in a Joe Biden administration … So we want to have as clean a slate as possible going into January,” Pelosi said.

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