U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday the Trump administration will not let disagreements over Democrats’ demands for a national coronavirus testing strategy foil attempts to agree on coronavirus relief legislation.
Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC television he would tell House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the administration generally agrees with a strategy to test people for COVID-19 throughout the U.S.
“When I speak to Pelosi today, I’m going to tell her that we’re not going to let the testing issue stand in the way, that we’ll fundamentally agree with their testing language subject to some minor issues, Mnuchin said.
Mnuchin also clarified remarks he made Wednesday at a conference sponsored by the Milken Institute, when he said it would be “difficult” to reach a stimulus deal before the November 3 presidential election.
“What I said was that a deal would be hard to get done before the election but we’re going to keep trying, so I don’t want to say that it’s not likely, it’s just there are significant issues,” Mnuchin added.
Mnuchin said the administration, which has a $1.88 trillion proposal on the table, has prioritized a proposal to reallocate $300 billion that legislators approved earlier this year in the CARES Act for another round of emergency aid for airlines and small businesses.
The Republican White House and the Democrat-led House of Representatives have struggled for weeks to agree on another comprehensive relief bill after the expiration of earlier Congressionally approved benefits for laid-off workers and other support.
Pelosi, whose party approved a $2.2 trillion relief measure in the House, has said the administration’s $1.88 trillion proposal is not enough.
Mnuchin’s comments on CNBC came minutes after the U.S. Labor Department reported the number of people who filed for unemployment benefits for the first time rose to 898,000 in the week that ended Oct. 10. It was the highest number since Aug. 22, and another indication the recovery of the U.S. jobs market may be losing momentum.
As the White House and lawmakers discuss an economic relief package, the COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. reached a world-leading 217,000 on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.
There were 59,000 new coronavirus infections in the U.S. on Wednesday, according to Hopkins, a reflection of increased infections in Midwestern U.S. states, boosting the total number of confirmed cases in the U.S. to 7.9 million, the most in the world.