President Trump, struggling to gain traction among voters just weeks before the election, called on Thursday for a bigger stimulus package than he had previously offered, and the White House signaled it was willing to make concessions to Democrats. But the proposals were unlikely to win the necessary backing from Senate Republicans who are preparing a far smaller bill of their own.
White House negotiators have proposed a $1.8 trillion relief package. Mr. Trump said that he wanted one that was even bigger and suggested, without explanation, that China would pay for it.
“I would go higher,” Mr. Trump said during an interview with the Fox Business Network. “Go big or go home.”
The comments came after Mr. Mnuchin said that the White House was willing to make additional concessions to Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California in hopes of rekindling a stimulus deal before the election. But the $1.8 trillion package that he has proposed has already proven to be a non-starter with Senate Republicans who have panned it as too costly, making Mr. Trump’s call for a more expensive bill another complication in the already fraught negotiations.
Investors, who have been following the stimulus talks closely, seemed unmoved by statements from Mr. Trump and Mr. Mnuchin on Thursday, with stocks on Wall Street dropping for a third consecutive day.
The president suggested that Ms. Pelosi’s $2.2 trillion proposal was littered with Democratic priorities that his “pride” would not allow him to accept. However, he also undercut his own Treasury secretary for not being able to secure a larger agreement.
“So far he hasn’t come home with the bacon,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Mnuchin.
The negotiations between the White House and Congress are expected to continue on Thursday, when Mr. Mnuchin and Ms. Pelosi are scheduled to speak.
Speaking on CNBC, the Treasury secretary said that he would agree to the language that Democrats had insisted on when it came to a coronavirus testing program and noted that the two sides had already agreed to spend an additional $75 billion on testing and contact tracing. The specifics of such a program have been an obstacle in the talks.
“We’ll fundamentally agree with their testing language, subject to some minor issues,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “We need to get money to the American public now.”
Mr. Mnuchin’s remarks came after the Labor Department reported that the number of new claims for unemployment benefits jumped to 886,000 last week.
But on Wednesday, Mr. Mnuchin acknowledged it would be difficult to pass and enact a deal in the next three weeks.
In the interview on CNBC, Mr. Mnuchin did not directly address the lack of support for a bill by Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, suggesting that he has been briefed on negotiations between the White House and House Democrats while acknowledging that Senate Republicans prefer a more “targeted” relief bill.
But Mr. McConnell downplayed the prospects of a larger bill on Thursday.
“He’s talking about a much larger amount than I can sell to my members,” Mr. McConnell said about the president’s comments.
Negotiators have been locked in fruitless talks for months. On Thursday, Mr. Mnuchin assailed Democrats for letting politics get in the way of reaching agreement before the election, though Mr. Trump scuttled the talks himself when he said in a tweet last week that he had called off stimulus negotiations until after the election.
Mr. Mnuchin also called on Congress to give him the authority to repurpose approximately $300 billion in unused relief money from the legislation that was passed in March. He said he could begin getting that money into the economy this week.