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US aid deal possible if Democrats are ‘reasonable’: Mnuchin

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Aug 19, 2020 - 03:54 AM

WASHINGTON — Agreement on a new deal for more emergency pandemic spending is within reach if Democratic leaders are willing to be “reasonable,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday.

That deal would include funding for the embattled US Postal Service (USPS), which the sides already agreed on, Mnuchin said on CNBC.

“There’s a deal to do here if the Democrats want to be reasonable. I’m concerned about the politics in all this,” he said, noting that he has continued to have discussions with legislators on funding to help businesses and workers hurt by COVID-19 shutdowns.

“I think there’s a lot of people on both sides in the Senate and the House, both Republicans and Democrats, that would like to see people come together and get a deal done that’s good for the American workers.”

Negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer broke down earlier this month when the White House refused to go along with aid to struggling state and local governments, which Mnuchin had called “absurd.”

Each side has blamed the other for the failure to reach a deal, which economists say is critical to aid the struggling economy.

The Treasury secretary said the sides had agreed on $10 billion for the USPS, even while he argued that the funds were not needed because there was “plenty of cash on hand.”

The postal service is at the center of a political firestorm, after President Donald Trump named Republican donor Louis DeJoy as postmaster general. DeJoy slashed overtime and reshuffled senior management, moves critics charge are aimed at slowing down delivery times and undermining mail-in voting in the November presidential elections.

Pelosi called the House of Representatives back into session to pass a stand-alone bill to aid the postal service, and DeJoy is set to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Monday.

But the Republican-led Senate Homeland Security Committee announced Tuesday DeJoy will testify there first on Friday.

Mnuchin said it is critical to get new aid to small businesses which are suffering the most.

“It’s a two-tiered economy right now,” he said. Some large firms are benefitting from the pandemic but “there’s plenty of small businesses that are on the ropes.”

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