Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Cautions Against Piling on 'Enormous' Debt in Achieving Stimulus Deal

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday offered widely differing views on what to do about the country's more than 30 million unemployed workers. Democrats rejected a plan backed by President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans that would have extended the $600 enhanced unemployment benefits for a single week, with Pelosi and others saying such benefits should be much longer term.

Speaking with ABC News' This Week in back-to-back interviews Sunday, Pelosi and Mnuchin relayed details from ongoing talks about another coronavirus relief package — and whether it should include the additional $600 in weekly unemployment benefits.

"The president is very concerned about the expiration of the unemployment insurance," said Mnuchin. "We proposed a one-week extension at $600 so that while we negotiate a longer term solution at least all those people don't lose their money, and I'm surprised the Democrats won't agree to that. They are insistent on having this as part of a larger deal."

Democrats passed a plan in June that would have extended the unemployment benefits to laid off workers through January. Mnuchin said the Trump administration and Republicans delayed coming up with a plan for so long because they were unsure if pumping so much money into the economy was actually encouraging people from going back to work.

"We've authorized over $3 trillion into the U.S. economy this has never been done in the history of time. We put about half of that into the economy and we wanted to wait and see how the money was going to work and we have to have balance. There's obviously a need to support workers, support the economy. People who, through no fault of their own, are shut down because of this terrible disease," Mnuchin said.

"On the other hand, we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amounts of debt for future generations," he added.

In her interview on the same program, Pelosi was pressed by This Week host Martha Raddatz on what she would like to say to the 30 million Americans who had their added federal unemployment benefits cut last week. The benefits from the March CARES Act expired on July 31.

"Talk to President Trump. He's the one who is standing in the way of that," the House Speaker said Sunday. "We have been for the $600, they have a $200 proposal, which does not meet the needs of America's working families. And it's a condescension, quite frankly, because they're saying 'they really don't need it, they're just staying home because they make more money, it's $600.'"

"The idea that they made a proposal is not actually factual," Pelosi said of the Republicans, adding that the enhanced unemployment benefits should be at least $600 due to the massive amount of jobless Americans.

"The fact is that they're subjecting somebody who gets $600 to scrutiny that they won't subject somebody who is getting millions of dollars from PPP [Paycheck Protection Program]," the House Speaker also said. "Overwhemingly, this is keeping people out of poverty ... the $600 is essential for America's working families. To condescend, to disrespect their motivation is so amazing."

During the interview, Mnuchin responded to Pelosi's assertion that defeating the virus has been a contentious issue: "I was surprised to hear the speaker we don't agree on the need to kill the virus. We absolutely agree on the need to kill the virus." He said the president has acted aggressively to the coronavirus outbreak by shutting down all travel. "Since then we have aggressively funded over seven different vaccines into production, we're very optimistic that we'll have results out of these vaccines, and we'll have a vaccine available by the end of the year."

Newsweek reached out to both Pelosi's Washington office and the White House for additional remarks Sunday morning.

treasury secretary steve mnuchin
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday offered widely differing views on what to do about the country's more than 30 million unemployed workers. SAMUEL CORUM / Stringer/Getty Images