White House calls for Congress to release unused small business loans

Oct. 11 (UPI) — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Sunday sent a letter to Congress calling for the release of unused Paycheck Protection Program funds amid ongoing talks on an additional round of COVID-19 stimulus.

Mnuchin and Meadows urged lawmakers to release the $134 billion in loans provided to small businesses to maintain operations and retain employees included in the $2 trillion CARES Act passed in March, while also criticizing Congress — particularly House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer — for their “all-or-nothing” approach to negotiating additional stimulus.

“The House has passed two separate partisan bills instead of compromising with us on bipartisan legislation like we have done in the past,” they wrote. “We will continue to try to work with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer. It is not just about the top-line number but also about legislation that can be passed by the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Trump to help the American people.”

The letter comes after Mnuchin introduced a $1.8 trillion proposal on Friday, raising the White House’s previous offer of $1.6 trillion and inching closer to the $2.2 trillion package passed by the Democratic-led House earlier this month.

Mnuchin’s proposal was met with criticism from Democrats who believed it was not enough and some Republicans who believe the funding is too high.

Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow said that he believes Senate Republicans can come to an agreement in support of a newly proposed $1.8 trillion package despite host Jake Tapper noting that 20 GOP members of the chamber criticized the latest proposal from the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as a “death knell” for the measure.

“I don’t think it’s dead at all. I spoke to Secretary Mnuchin last evening. Look, don’t forget, the Republicans in the Senate put up their own bill a few weeks ago and got 53 votes, I think it was,” Kudlow said, referring to a so-called “skinny” $300 billion relief bill that failed to meet the 60 vote threshold to pass in September.

“I think, if an agreement can be reached, they will go along with it.”

Democrats have pushed to reinstate enhanced federal unemployment insurance at $600 a week through January, while Mnuchin last offered $400 a week at most. The Trump administration has also resisted providing states with any more than $150 billion in federal funding they received in a stimulus package earlier this year, while Pelosi has called for at least $436 billion in relief for states.

In a letter to Democratic colleagues on Saturday, Pelosi said the latest offer from the White House was “insufficient,” calling on the administration to commit to addressing issues related to combatting the virus such as testing, contact tracing and treatment.

“Until these serious issues are resolved, we remain at an impasse,” she wrote. “However, I remain hopeful that the White House will join us to work toward a relief package that addresses the health and economic crisis facing America’s families and will do so soon.” President Donald Trump, who earlier in the week had called for an end to negotiations, urged Republicans to “go big” in negotiations and said he would support a larger sum than both parties have proposed.

“I would like to see a bigger stimulus package, frankly, than either the Democrats or the Republicans are offering,” Trump told radio host Rush Limbaugh.

Kudlow said that Mnuchin “may” put forward a proposal greater than the $2.2 trillion by the House, adding that Trump is in favor of providing additional funds in areas where the two sides agree.

“President Trump actually has always said — I mean, I have heard him say it in the Oval — as far as the key elements are concerned, the checks, the unemployment assistance, the small business assistance — we have got to help airlines out — he would go further,” said Kudlow.

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