Mnuchin Says He Doubts There Will Be a Government Shutdown

  • Says president’s forecasts of 4, 5, 6 percent growth possible
  • Treasury chief won’t foreshadow possible tariffs on China

Steven Mnuchin

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he doubts there’ll be a government shutdown before Christmas, and he played coy about the U.S. approach to China in a major national security speech coming Monday.

“I can’t rule it out, but I can’t imagine it occurring,” Mnuchin said of a potential federal shutdown on “Fox News Sunday,” one of three appearances on Sunday talk shows.

If there’s no budget deal by Friday, Congress would have to pass its second short-term extension this month to keep the federal government running, Mnuchin said. “I just can’t imagine sending government workers home for Christmas. I hope Congress gets this done.”

Mnuchin wouldn’t provide specifics about Trump’s national security speech scheduled for Monday -- including whether the president will call out China for engaging in “economic aggression,” as the Financial Times has reported, or whether the administration plans new tariffs on imports from China.

“I have been working with the president on it,” Mnuchin said. “I was with the president and vice president at dinner last night at Camp David, and he’s excited to give the speech tomorrow. This isn’t about trade wars, this is about reciprocal fair trade.”

‘Balanced and Fair’

“We want to have a more balanced and fair trade relationship with China,” Mnuchin said.

Vice President Mike Pence and Mick Mulvaney, head of the White House budget office, were also slated to meet with Trump at Camp David in advance of Monday’s speech. No members of Trump’s foreign-policy team were listed on the president’s agenda for the weekend.

Meanwhile, votes are planned on the sweeping Republican tax bill in the House and Senate by the middle of this week, with the goal of having legislation on Trump’s desk for a signature before Christmas. Earlier opposition from key senators melted away on Friday.

On Saturday, Trump hailed the tax overhaul as a win for the middle class and predicted it would be a boon for U.S. jobs and the economy. “We are really going to start to rock,” the president told reporters as he boarded Marine One on the White House lawn.

Indirect Benefits

Mnuchin echoed Trump’s comments that the U.S. could soon see U.S. economic growth of “four, five or six percent.” The Treasury chief clarified, though, that some “quarters” could post readings that high. “I don’t think we’ll have that over 10 years, and that wasn’t what the president meant,” he said.

In Bloomberg’s most recent survey of economists, only one of 86 forecasters was even close to Trump’s GDP ambition of greater than 4 percent. The median forecast for growth in 2018 is 2.5 percent, the survey showed.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Mnuchin said middle-class families will begin to see the indirect benefits of corporate tax rate cuts “right away” in the form of pay raises.

“You’re going to see trillions of dollars come back, and I think you’re going to see this year wages going up,” he said.

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