By Zachary Stieber
President Donald Trump backs the COVID-19 relief package put together by the top Republican in Congress, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday that he had crafted a package with an eye toward support from Trump.
“The president will sign the McConnell proposal that he put forward yesterday and we look forward to making progress on that,” Mnuchin told reporters in Washington.
Negotiations on a second major relief package have been continuing for months, with slow progress toward a package but no clarity on when or if a final compromise will be reached.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Mnuchin, Trump’s top negotiator, spoke on Tuesday. On the same day, a bipartisan, bicameral group unveiled a $900 billion proposal.
Asked about a proposal floated this week by Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mnuchin told reporters, “I’m not going to publicly comment on it, but I did speak to her briefly and there’s also the other bipartisan proposal.”
Earlier Tuesday, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, one of Trump’s top economic advisers, said the bipartisan proposal was a step in the right direction.
Ultimately, he told reporters outside the White House, Trump favors a package that would unlock funds already appropriated that will expire at the end of the year if authorization isn’t given for their repurposing.
McConnell said he wanted a package that the president would favor because “you have to have a presidential signature.”
“I hope that this is something that would be signed into law by the president, be done quickly, deal with the things that we can agree on now. And I think we all know that after the first of the year, there’s likely to be a discussion about some additional package of some size next year,” he added.
McConnell didn’t outline what was in his bill but the No. 2 Senate Republican, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), said provisions that have GOP support include funding for vaccines, schools, and unemployment assistance.
“Those are all things that the Democrats say that they agree upon, but they have insisted, at least up until now, on a bloated messaging bill” of $2.5 trillion or so, “which is something that obviously would not pass in the Senate and get signed into law by the president.”
“So the question is, what can we get through the House, 60 votes in the Senate, and a presidential signature on,” he said.
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