Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday criticized top Democrats for what he categorized as stubborn tactics and a refusal to discuss any "reasonable deal" to provide relief to American consumers and businesses afflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Wall Street had hoped that Mnuchin would support reports published Monday evening that Senate Republicans are planning to introduce a "skinny," $1 trillion coronavirus relief bill in an effort to ease the stalemate.
But the Treasury secretary failed to offer much in the way of optimism on talks with Democrats.
"The good news is despite Congress not acting, because Pelosi and Schumer aren't willing to sit down and strike a reasonable deal, the president moved forward with the [executive order] to help people who are still unemployed," Mnuchin said on "Squawk on the Street."
He and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows have led Republican efforts to draft the next coronavirus relief bill. But discussions with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have been at a standstill for weeks.
Democrats, who favor a $3 trillion relief package, contend that White House negotiators fail to appreciate the severity of the economic downturn and the ongoing struggle of the millions of Americans who've lost their jobs as a result of the virus.
Republicans, citing recent improvements in economic data, counter that a smaller relief bill is both more appropriate and fiscally responsible.
Still, some on Wall Street grew hopeful Monday evening after multiple outlets reported that Senate Republicans were preparing to introduce their own "slimmer" deal.
The pared-down GOP relief bill is expected to include $300 in boosted weekly federal unemployment benefits until Dec. 27, another around of money for the Paycheck Protection Program and an incremental $10 billion for the U.S. Postal Service, according to both Politico and The Wall Street Journal.
The Republican bill is expected to appeal to GOP lawmakers who are split on whether — or how much — additional spending is needed to support the U.S. economy in the face of improving data. Democrats will likely cast the legislation as insufficient.
"There's no question that the economic numbers are doing better. So, as we reopen the economy, we see things are getting better," Mnuchin said. "But the president wants us to do more. He wants us to provide money for kids and jobs, and a second round of the PPP and direct payments are a clear part of that."
Meanwhile, House Democrats are considering a vote on a scaled-back version of the HEROES Act, NBC News reported Tuesday. The chamber is returning this weekend to vote on a Postal Service bill to help prepare for a spike in mail-in voting, but some lawmakers also want the party to push forward on the pandemic relief.
The idea was floated Monday on a Democratic caucus call by Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., an ally of House Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., according to multiple sources who spoke to NBC News.
Richmond called for a vote on a $2 trillion to $2.4 trillion relief bill, a move some consider risky in creating a new benchmark in the Democrats' position. Others, however, feel it's worth the attempt to show both Republicans and the American people that they're willing to compromise.
Contacted by CNBC later Tuesday afternoon, Pelosi's office said that the Speaker has not changed her position in the negotiations and that she's still willing to meet Republicans "halfway."
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