Difficult to reach Covid-19 relief deal before polls: Mnuchin

Washington, Oct 15 (IANS) US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that it would be difficult for the White House and House Democrats to reach a deal on a comprehensive Covid-19 relief package before the November 3 presidential election.”I’d say at this point getting something done before the election and executing on that would be difficult, just given where we are,” Xinhua news agency quoted Mnuchin as saying at a virtual conference hosted by the Milken Institute on Wednesday. He noted that the two sides were still far apart on certain issues.Asked whether the Democrats were unwilling to make a deal, Mnuchin said: “I think that definitely is part of the reality. That’s definitely an issue.”But the President is very focused on when he wins we will need to do more. So that’s part of the reason to continue to work on this. The clock will not stop.”Mnuchin’s remarks came after an hour-long phone discussion with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday morning.”In response to proposals sent over the weekend, the two spent time seeking clarification on language, which was productive,” Drew Hammill, spokesman and deputy chief of staff for the House speaker, said on Twitter.”One major area of disagreement continues to be that the White House lacks an understanding of the need for a national strategic testing plan,” Hammill said, adding staff will continue to exchange paper and the two principals will speak again on Thursday.On October 9, President Donald Trump’s administration made a new $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief package offer.The $1.8 trillion figure is up from a $1.6 trillion offer from earlier this week, although it remains below the $2.2 trillion in the bill passed by the House Democrats last week, CNN said in a report.In addition, the package also increased the amount of money it was willing to give to state and local governments from $250 billion to $300 billion and increased the amount of the direct payment per child from $500 to $1,000.But in a letter to Democratic colleagues on Tuesday, Pelosi said the White House’s latest relief proposal “falls significantly short of what this pandemic and deep recession demand”.In July, Republicans initially offered a $1.1 trillion package, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that up to 20 Senators could vote against it.Fifty-two Republican senators later backed a scaled-down $500 billion bill.Negotiations between the White House and Capitol Hill on a fifth round of stimulus have dragged on since the end of July without an agreement, The Hill news website reported.As talk stalled in August, Trump acted unilaterally, signing executive orders meant to extend a federal moratorium on evictions and offer a payroll tax referral.–IANSksk/

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