Mnuchin, McConnell Want to Tap Unused Fed Funds for Stimulus

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    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin bid to revive stalled stimulus talks with congressional Democrats by proposing the use of untapped Federal Reserve relief funds as part of a new package of aid. But Mnuchin’s plan to shutter a number of the Fed’s emergency-lending facilities ran into immediate opposition from Democrats. President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team slammed it as “deeply irresponsible,” and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the Treasury secretary of trying to hobble the incoming administration. Mnuchin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discussed the strategy Friday, in the first sign in weeks of possible movement on stimulus in the waning days of the Trump administration. Democrats and Republicans have to date had widely different views on the amount of fresh appropriations needed for Covid-19 relief. McConnell backed Mnuchin’s proposal to use $580 billion that was allocated for Fed loan guarantees, small business help and other coronavirus-relief programs that remains unspent. “Congress should repurpose this money toward the kinds of urgent, important and targeted relief measures that Republicans have been trying to pass for months, but which Democrats have repeatedly blocked with all-or-nothing demands,” McConnell said in a statement. The Fed said Friday it would comply with the Treasury Department’s request to return the unused funds that were meant to backstop five emergency lending programs that are expiring. Biden transition spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said ending the programs would remove a support for small businesses just as the virus is surging across the country and the economy continues to reel. “We should be reinforcing the government’s ability to respond and support the economy — not undermining it,” Bedingfield said in a statement. “This follows a disturbing pattern of this administration putting petty grievances ahead of the health and safety of the American people.” At a news conference earlier Friday, Pelosi cited the Fed’s “highly unusual” public dispute with Mnuchin over letting the emergency lending programs expire. “Again, why? Why? — Because they want to impede the ability of the administration to have everything available to them?” Pelosi said. Talks between the Republicans and Democrats on stimulus have been stalled for months. Mnuchin said earlier Friday that he and McConnell wanted to “come up with a plan to sit down with Pelosi and Schumer and try to get a targeted bill done for the people that really need it, and hopefully the Democrats will work with us and hopefully that will get done.” Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer this week wrote to McConnell asking him to return to the negotiating table on a stimulus bill, but so far have given no indication they’re willing to lower their demands for a $2.4 trillion bill. McConnell has repeatedly said the starting point for talks should be the $500 billion measure backed by Senate Republicans, which would not provide direct $1,200 stimulus payments to individuals or aid to state and local governments. One problem with Mnuchin’s approach is that the reclaimed Fed funds cannot be used to pay for other programs under congressional budget scoring conventions. The Congressional Budget Office assumes that loans will be repaid, so failing to offer the loans in the first place does not yield any measurable savings. After three months of talks, Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows before the election offered to back a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, which included direct payments, renewed supplemental unemployment insurance payments, and some state and local aid. Pelosi and Schumer rejected the plan as insufficient and said it lacked a way to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which has only become worse since then. President Donald Trump said he’d support a large stimulus after the election no matter who won, but other than a single tweet last weekend has not so far engaged with Congress to push the matter. Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2TwO8Gm Bloomberg Quicktake brings you live global news and original shows spanning business, technology, politics and culture. Make sense of the stories changing your business and your world. To watch complete coverage on Bloomberg Quicktake 24/7, visit http://www.bloomberg.com/qt/live, or watch on Apple TV, Roku, Samsung Smart TV, Fire TV and Android TV on the Bloomberg app. Connect with us on… YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Bloomberg Breaking News on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/BloombergQuickTakeNews Twitter: https://twitter.com/quicktake Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/quicktake Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/quicktake

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