Mnuchin Faults Pelosi Over Stimulus as Blame Game Heats Up
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg)

Mnuchin Faults Pelosi Over Stimulus as Blame Game Heats Up

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of pulling a “political stunt” and holding up a new stimulus bill by refusing to offer compromises, in an escalation of acrimonious finger-pointing over stalled virus-relief negotiations.

“Your ALL OR NOTHING approach is hurting hard-working Americans who need help NOW,” Mnuchin said in a response to a letter from the speaker earlier Thursday that demanded responses on seven critical areas of continuing differences.

Mnuchin Faults Pelosi Over Stimulus as Blame Game Heats Up

The Treasury secretary said that the administration had already come back to Pelosi on her demand for a national Covid-19 testing strategy. On the other areas Pelosi cited as sticking points -- including aid to state and local authorities -- Mnuchin said she had “refused to compromise.”

The seven areas Pelosi listed in her letter are a national virus testing-and-tracing program; funding for state and local governments; school safety measures; child-care funding; tax credits for working families; unemployment insurance; and workplace protections and liability issues.

“We don’t expect them all to be in our favor” when the White House does respond, Pelosi said in a Bloomberg TV interview.

Deteriorating Ties

The two negotiators last spoke on Monday, as the clock ran down on the potential for a pre-election deal.

Mnuchin tweeted that, because Pelosi’s letter had been delivered at midnight, he had learned of it in the media.

“I can unfortunately only conclude that it is a political stunt,” Mnuchin said. The two negotiators had previously had one of the few regular cross-party negotiating partnerships in a bitterly divided Washington.

Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hammill later shot back on Twitter that Mnuchin had wasted time with the letter since it failed to provide answers to Pelosi’s demands.

Dollar Amount

The two sides have grown closer in dollar terms on a stimulus, with Mnuchin having offered $1.9 trillion for stimulus and the speaker seeking $2.4 trillion, though the increasingly critical language bodes ill for a deal.

President Donald Trump Thursday repeated his accusation that Pelosi is stalling before the election and his top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said on Fox News, “Our team now believes that the speaker has no intention of compromising on key issues.”

Pelosi said it’s still possible to get a compromise on a stimulus with the Trump administration after the election, but before the start of the new congressional and White House terms in January.

“Well I think so,” Pelosi said in a Bloomberg Television interview Thursday when asked if an agreement on Covid-19 relief could be reached in the so-called lame-duck session of Congress. “I hoped we could at least have an agreement before the election, but they have not ever responded.”

‘Another Infusion’

Pelosi also said that a strong bounce-back in U.S. growth in the third quarter, reported Thursday, showcased the impact of a stimulus package approved in March. “That’s going to wear off, and we need another infusion,” she said in the interview.

Kudlow had a different take, saying that the 32% annualized jump in gross domestic product -- after a 33.1% drop in the April-through-June quarter -- showed a v-shaped recovery that wasn’t dependent on another giant stimulus package.

Even so, Trump reiterated his own call for a bill even bigger than the $2.4 trillion favored by the speaker. “But Nancy Pelosi does not want to do it,” he said in a podcast with Jon Taffer. Trump said he’ll push for “a very big package as soon as the election’s over.”

Trump’s push has long been rebuffed by many Senate Republicans, however, who have preferred more targeted assistance.

Lame Duck

When asked if Democrats would accept a smaller relief bill in the lame-duck session, Pelosi said at a press briefing earlier that “we’re not talking size, we’re talking quality.” She said Democrats wouldn’t accept a small bill with “the bulk of it pouring onto the rich people of America.”

With the Dow Jones Industrial Average down roughly 1,900 points the past few sessions, the market is responding to the renewed spread of the coronavirus, without Washington having injected the resources necessary to deal with it, Pelosi said.

Stocks recouped some of their losses from the past three sessions on Thursday, with the Dow up 0.5% and the S&P 500 Index gaining 1.2% at the close.

Pelosi also said that she expects Joe Biden to win the presidency next week, and there should be an initiative to craft a broad economic recovery plan in the run up to his taking office, just as Democrats did after Barack Obama’s November 2008 victory.

“We will have to do something like that from the start,” Pelosi told Bloomberg.

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