Coronavirus stimulus checks agreement: Mnuchin talks with Pelosi, but no progress

To break the ongoing stalemate over the coronavirus stimulus, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows talked with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week. This week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talked with Pelosi to try to break the impasse over the coronavirus stimulus agreement, including checks, but there doesn’t seem to have been any progress made.

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Q2 2020 hedge fund letters, conferences and more

No coronavirus stimulus checks agreement yet

Mnuchin, during a hearing of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis on Tuesday, said parts of the economy still need financial support even though jobs are returning and businesses are recovering from the government-imposed shutdowns.

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“What is most important is that we deliver some relief quickly to the American workers impacted by this,” Mnuchin said.

During the hearing, Mnuchin also said that he is ready to sit down with the speaker any time to negotiate on the bill. Further, Mnuchin noted that he and the president are in favor of additional stimulus and are working hard to “try to get a negotiated agreement on a bipartisan basis."

Later Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California asked Mnuchin, "Can I tell her you suggested I call her right after the hearing? Done, I will call her right after the hearing." In reply, Mnuchin said he would call the speaker.

After the hearing, Mnuchin did call Pelosi on the topic of the coronavirus stimulus agreement, including checks.

Pelosi later also confirmed that she got a call from Mnuchin. Her remarks suggested that they didn’t make any progress on the coronavirus stimulus or checks. Pelosi expressed concern over Mnuchin saying "Let's do a little now and a little later."

“Sadly, this phone call made clear that Democrats and the White House continue to have serious differences understanding the gravity of the situation that America's working families are facing," she said in a statement, according to CNBC.

Why did Mnuchin-Pelosi talks fail?

Talks failing between Mnuchin and Pelosi do not come as a surprise. It’s been clear from earlier negotiations, including the Meadows-Pelosi call last week, that Democrats won’t accept anything less than $2.2 trillion.

Additionally, Mnuchin at Tuesday's hearing said that he does not support the overarching price tag that Democrats are demanding. Mnuchin noted the way forward is to “go piece by piece” and pass the coronavirus stimulus legislation that both sides agree on, such as checks.

"Unfortunately, Sen. Schumer and Speaker Pelosi do not want to sit down at the negotiating table unless we publicly agree on a top line,” he said.

Democratic leaders, however, argue that the coronavirus stimulus must be addressed with a comprehensive package and not by standalone packages.

Mnuchin, on the other hand, said that a piecemeal package on Paycheck Protection Program would get "overwhelming support" from lawmakers.

"Let's not get caught on a number. Let's agree on things we can move forward on a bipartisan basis now. I don't think the right outcome is zero. Nobody thinks the right outcome is zero," Mnuchin said.