WASHINGTON—Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday the administration was prepared to meet Democrats’ demands for a national coronavirus testing strategy as part of a larger economic relief package.
In an interview with CNBC, Mr. Mnuchin said he planned to tell House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) Thursday that the White House fundamentally agrees with language Democrats have proposed for the testing strategy, which has become a sticking point in ongoing negotiations over another aid bill.
An agreement over a national testing plan would remove the biggest, but not the only, concern Democrats had raised last weekend with the White House’s latest $1.88 trillion proposal. It could raise pressure on Mrs. Pelosi to reach an agreement with President Trump less than three weeks before the presidential election. Still, even if Mr. Mnuchin and Mrs. Pelosi strike a deal, the GOP-controlled Senate has already signaled it may reject it.
“When I speak to Pelosi today I’m going to tell her that we’re not going to let the testing issue stand in the way, that we’ll fundamentally agree with their testing language subject to some minor issues,” he said.
Mr. Mnuchin said the issue over testing “is getting overblown,” adding that the administration has agreed to include $75 billion that Democrats’ proposed for coronavirus testing and contact tracing and an additional $28 billion for vaccine development and distribution.
Discussions in recent days have focused on the language around the testing strategy, he said. The White House had proposed using language included in a separate testing bill that had bipartisan support in the House and Senate, but Mr. Mnuchin said the administration was willing to acquiesce to the language requested by Mrs. Pelosi to move negotiations along.
He also emphasized that a priority for the White House was repurposing roughly $300 billion that lawmakers authorized earlier this year in the March Cares Act that hasn’t been spent. The administration has proposed reallocating the money for another round of emergency aid to small businesses and for payroll support for struggling airlines.
“I can literally get that money out the door this week,” he said.
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News White House Agrees to Democrats’ National Coronavirus Testing Strategy via partners WSJ.