Washington (CNN)Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is set to testify Tuesday before the House subcommittee investigating the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic amid an impasse over a new stimulus package to address the economic and public health fallout from the pandemic.
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to testify before House coronavirus panel amid stimulus impasse
Democrats, who are in the majority on the panel, will have an opportunity to press Mnuchin on the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic and the prospects for negotiating new relief legislation as the country grapples with the devastating toll of coronavirus.
A release from the panel announcing the hearing said that it will “examine the urgent need for additional economic relief for children, workers, and families, and the administration’s implementation of key stimulus programs passed by Congress earlier this year.”
The hearing will be conducted as a hybrid of in-person and remote participation with Mnuchin and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the chair of the select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, scheduled to appear in person.
Talks for a new stimulus broke down on Capitol Hill in early August, with Democrats and Trump administration officials walking away amid partisan finger-pointing. Mnuchin has served as a lead negotiator for the administration in the talks.
After the breakdown in talks, President Donald Trump attempted to bypass Congress to deliver aid to Americans by taking executive action. But some of those programs aren’t working as quickly as Trump promised.
For example, the boost to unemployment benefit signed by Trump takes effect retroactively to August 1, but most jobless aren’t seeing the money yet. Plus, the funding is only expected to provide for four to five weeks of supplemental benefits.
The payroll tax measure Trump signed — set to take effect this week — does not actually reduce payroll taxes, but instead defers the due date for the portion paid by employees until next year. It’s not automatic. Employers can choose to continue withholding those taxes, and many businesses have suggested they will do so.
In the meantime, little progress toward any kind of a bipartisan stimulus deal has been made. A call between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows last week did nothing to break the ongoing impasse over negotiations for a new stimulus, leaving talks stalled as the pandemic continues to take a dire toll on public health and the economy.
Pelosi, in the call with Meadows, did offer to drop the Democratic demand on the topline to $2.2 trillion, from $2.4 trillion. But she made clear to reporters that Democrats are unwilling to go lower, even as that leaves the two sides roughly $1 trillion apart on the topline. Senate Republicans unveiled a roughly $1 trillion stimulus proposal at the end of July, which marked their opening bid in negotiations.
In an indication of how far apart the two sides remain, Pelosi said in a statement released after the roughly 25-minute call with Meadows that the “conversation made clear that the White House continues to disregard the needs of the American people as the coronavirus crisis devastates lives and livelihoods.”
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