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US stimulus deal 'hard' to accomplish before election: Mnuchin

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has spent weeks fruitlessly negotiating with Democrats on a new stimulus package - MANDEL NGAN / ©AFP
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has spent weeks fruitlessly negotiating with Democrats on a new stimulus package - MANDEL NGAN / ©AFP

(AFP)

Getting a new stimulus spending package approved by Congress is unlikely before the November 3 presidential election but negotiations will continue nonetheless, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday.

Lawmakers have tried fruitlessly for months to reach an agreement on a follow-up to the $2.2 trillion CARES Act after key provisions of that rescue measure expired, depriving unemployed workers of needed support and sparking mass layoffs by US airlines.

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Talks resumed in recent weeks but with the election drawing ever nearer and Democrats and Republicans still arguing over how much to spend and in what form, Mnuchin acknowledged the talks are facing tough odds.

“A deal would be hard to get done before the election, but we’re going to keep trying,” Mnuchin said in an interview on CNBC. “So, I don’t want to say that it’s not likely, it’s just there are significant issues.”

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi late Wednesday spoke on MSNBC and said the sides would not be talking if they didn’t really want to reach an agreement, but insisted on a “clear plan to crush the virus” as well as funds for education and to protect worker safety.

Major Wall Street indices sunk into the red over the past days as traders began realizing new economic stimulus may not come any time soon. The Dow was 0.7 percent lower in early trading Thursday.

The CARES Act has been credited with boosting consumption and keeping small businesses afloat through a program of loans and grants, but those measures have expired.

A separate program to stop airlines from laying off workers despite a collapse in travel during the pandemic expired at the start of October, and major carriers have since furloughed around 32,000 employees.

President Donald Trump threw the stimulus negotiations into chaos last week when he ordered Mnuchin to halt the talks, but he quickly reversed course..

Republicans have tried to push through smaller individual bills, but Pelosi said Democrats would only support the measures, including one targeting airlines, in the context of a comprehensive package..

The House approved a $2.2 trillion package, but the latest White House offer was for $1.8 trillion, and Pelosi raised objections to components of that proposal while Senate Republicans revolted over the size..

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this week announced he would schedule a vote on a bill to fund the depleted small business loan program, but there’s little chance of that being enacted without the support of House Democrats.

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