Steven Mnuchin says bill will fund government into December

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks to reporters in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. July 29, 2020.

Erin Scott | Reuters

A developing plan to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month would likely fund federal operations into December, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday. 

While Mnuchin told “Fox News Sunday” that Republicans and Democrats have not reached a final agreement on spending legislation, he said he hoped Congress can start to move forward with a bill “by the end of the week.” Funding will lapse after Sept. 30 if lawmakers fail to approve an appropriations package. 

“For now, the most important thing is to make sure at the end of the month we don’t shut down the government and we get something past the election,” the Treasury secretary told Fox. 

Congress returns this month from its August recess facing a long to-do list. As lawmakers stare down the prospect of a shutdown, they are also considering whether to approve an elusive fifth coronavirus stimulus package. 

The White House and Democrats announced a deal this week to move forward with a “clean” temporary spending bill, which would not attach potentially toxic provisions to a funding plan. Concerns had grown that the sides could try to include their coronavirus relief goals in an appropriations proposal, which would have injected heated election-year politics into a must-pass package. 

On Sunday, Mnuchin said he expects Congress could pass more than one short-term government funding bill before it approves spending through the end of the next fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. 

The Treasury secretary, one of the two lead Trump administration negotiators in pandemic aid talks with Democrats, signaled negotiations have still made little progress since they fell apart last month. Mnuchin said he and Trump “believe we should do more stimulus.”

But the White House has failed to agree with Democrats on a price tag for the bill. The Trump administration has repeatedly said it will not meet Democrats’ demands to increase the cost of its roughly $1.3 trillion relief plan to $2.2 trillion. 

“Where we’re really stuck is both on certain policy issues and more importantly, the top line,” Mnuchin told Fox. 

The question of how much aid to send to state and local governments, in particular, has tripped up talks. Democrats want more than $900 billion in new relief for states and municipalities. The Trump administration has proposed $150 billion in new funding. 

Senate Republicans aim to consider a roughly $500 billion aid plan this week. It would address areas including extra unemployment insurance, new small business loans, money for schools and funding for Covid-19 testing, treatment and vaccines. The bill would not include a second round of direct payments to Americans. 

The legislation likely will not become law, as Democrats have opposed it.

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