FILE PHOTO: Oversight of Treasury Department's and Federal Reserve's Pandemic Response hearing in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell fist bumps Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin after a House Financial Services Committee hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, U.S., December 2, 2020. Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

December 4, 2020

By Ann Saphir

(Reuters) – Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell spoke a dozen times in October with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Powell’s calendar published on Friday shows, more frequent interaction with his key Trump administration counterpart than in any month since July.

Powell’s calendars do not give any details on what the two discussed during the multiple phone calls, including four on Oct. 1 and another held jointly with Republican Senators Mike Crapo and Pat Toomey.

Toomey had been a vocal opponent of extending the Fed’s emergency lending facilities set up early in the pandemic to backstop the economy. Mnuchin and Powell had worked hard on creating those programs; indeed, Powell’s calendar for April reflects 21 chats between the two men.

In mid-November, Mnuchin abruptly pulled the plug on some of those facilities, saying the law required they sunset by Dec. 31. Powell said he would have preferred to have kept the backstops available for an economy under siege from a renewed viral surge.

In October, Powell and Mnuchin also held a joint call with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose talks with Mnuchin over fiscal aid had stalled. He also lunched with President Donald Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who often expressed the view that the economy was in a “self-sustaining” recovery and didn’t need more government help.

Powell has been and remains a big advocate of fiscal relief as a “bridge” for unemployed Americans and hard-hit businesses to the post-pandemic world.

The Fed chair has made outreach to senators and members of Congress a key aspect of his tenure.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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