Key White House Negotiator Vows One More Serious Try on Coronavirus Stimulus

by Christy Bieber | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on Oct. 1, 2020

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With negotiations restarting in earnest, will lawmakers finally make a deal on coronavirus stimulus?

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin provided reason for renewed hope on Wednesday for Americans waiting for a second stimulus check. Secretary Mnuchin, who has negotiated with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on behalf of the White House, indicated on CNBC that he intends to make "one more serious try" to reach consensus on legislation to provide more coronavirus relief.

This attempt to restart coronavirus aid talks follows a long string of failed efforts as lawmakers have struggled to pass followup legislation after the CARES Act was signed into law at the end of March.

Now, however, things could perhaps go differently. House Democrats have introduced another relief bill -- this time with a smaller price tag. And amid bipartisan calls to act before the election, Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Mnuchin have made clear their intent to try again in good faith, and their fervent hope they'll agree on a bill that can be signed into law.

The White House wants another stimulus bill, but is agreement possible?

President Trump and members of his administration have repeatedly made clear they would like to see another stimulus bill pass, so Mnuchin's assurance on Wednesday that he would return to the negotiating table didn't come as a major surprise. However, the Secretary's optimism is an especially good sign for those waiting for relief.

"We're hopeful that we can get something done here," he told CNBC, and added, "I think there's a reasonable compromise here."

These words echo comments made by Speaker Pelosi on Sunday, indicating she was ready to negotiate and believed she and Mnunchin could "come to an agreement."

Pelosi and Mnuchin have instrumental roles in drafting a coronavirus relief bill that can win support from both parties -- so far, attempts at legislation have been largely partisan, and thus unlikely to get the votes to move forward.

The Democrats, for example, passed the HEROES Act with a price tag of more than $3 trillion, which was dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate. The $2.4 trillion bill they recently introduced could meet the same fate, as Republicans insist the total price of the next relief bill not top $1.5 trillion. The Republicans, for their part, introduced the HEALS Act and a so-called "skinny" relief bill that neglected important Democratic priorities and thus stood no chance of passage.

To end the stalemate, both sides will need to meet in the middle. A bipartisan group of lawmakers called the Problem Solvers Caucus provided one path forward for what that might look like, introducing a consensus plan focused on shared priorities that include offering more aid to the unemployed, as well as providing Americans with a second stimulus check. Lawmakers agree both of these types of relief are necessary, but disagree over who should receive the second check, and how large the unemployment benefit boost should be.

It remains to be seen if party leadership will embrace this approach. But with Mnuchin and Pelosi saying they're headed back into negotiations amid a chorus of calls for relief from lawmakers, economists, and business leaders, there's at least reason to hope this latest discussion will be fruitful and lead to Americans getting more money in their bank accounts sooner rather than later.

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