By ELIZABETH THOMAS, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pushed back on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that the Republican Party is to blame for the deadlock on coronavirus relief, telling ABC’s This Week Co-anchor Martha Raddatz that he and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows will be on the Hill “every day until we reach an agreement.”
Pelosi painted a different picture to Raddatz, in an interview ahead of Mnuchin’s, making it clear that the White House and Democrats are far apart on closing a deal.
“He’s the one who is standing in the way of that,” she said of President Donald Trump on Sunday. “We have been for the $600, they have a $200 proposal, which does not meet the needs of America’s working families.”
Federal pandemic unemployment benefits given to 30 million Americans officially expired on Friday, but Congress and the Trump administration were no closer to a deal that would salvage any portion of a $600-per-week check.
“We have to balance,” Mnuchin said in an exclusive interview Sunday. “There’s obviously a need to support workers, support the economy … on the other hand, we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amounts of debt.”
Senate Republicans mounted a last-ditch effort Thursday evening with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulling back members — many had already left for home for the weekend — to vote on a plan that would cut the weekly federal benefit to $200, or two-thirds of lost wages.
Every Democrat and some Republicans opposed the measure.
While many Americans have relied on the federal unemployment insurance boost throughout the pandemic, Mnuchin reiterated on This Week that his belief is that there’s no question that it is a disincentive to find a job in “some cases.”
“There are cases where people are overpaid,” Mnuchin said Sunday.
Raddatz pressed Mnuchin on this claim, citing a Yale study from this month which found no evidence in labor market data that the payments have any effect on people returning to work during the pandemic.
Mnuchin said that he didn’t agree with the study and doubled down on his assertion that people are being disincentivized to work.
“I agree on certain things,” Mnuchin noted. “I don’t always agree. There’s a Chicago study that goes through all the people that are overpaid.”
Mnuchin also said he was “surprised” at Pelosi’s claim that Republicans don’t want to kill the coronavirus.
“Well, first, let me say, I was surprised to hear the speaker say we don’t agree on the need to kill the virus,” Mnuchin said. “We absolutely agree on the need to kill the virus.”
Speaking to reporters after his interview, Mnuchin said he spoke to Trump eight or nine times this weekend about the negotiations.
Separately, the president threatened to ban the popular app TikTok by executive order on Friday.
The app, which allows users to film and share short videos of themselves along to accompanying music, is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. The relationship has caused the Trump administration, as well as lawmakers across both aisles, to accuse the app of being a security threat.
Mnuchin said he’s also been talking to the president about his agency’s review of TikTok, but declined to share specifics of those conversations. He added that TikTok cannot stay in its current form due to “risks of sending back information on 100 million Americans.”
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