President Donald Trump called off coronavirus relief negotiations Tuesday, saying he’d like legislators to instead focus their time on confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
In a series of tweets, the president — who is currently recovering from COVID-19, having just left the hospital yesterday — seemingly doomed the prospect of more $1,200 stimulus checks, a return of the $600 weekly unemployment benefit, and other much-needed aid for millions of out-of-work Americans until after the Nov. 3 election. He blamed Democrats for the turn of events, since party leadership has repeatedly pushed ambitious, expensive packages to mend a pandemic-ravaged economy, while Republicans have balked at the price tag.
“Nancy Pelosi is asking for $2.4 Trillion Dollars to bail out poorly run, high crime, Democrat States, money that is in no way related to COVID-19,” Trump said on Twitter Tuesday. “We made a very generous offer of $1.6 Trillion Dollars and, as usual, she is not negotiating in good faith.”
“I am rejecting their request, and looking to the future of our Country,” he continued. “I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business.”
House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion bill last week that would’ve provided $436 billion in relief to state and local governments over the course of one year, according to CNBC, and much more for COVID-19 testing and tracing, unemployment benefits, and Paycheck Protection Program loans, among other provisions. The White House had offered $1.62 trillion in relief, according to Roll Call, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said was equivalent to “the heel of the loaf” of bread.
Still, Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been trying for weeks to come up with an agreeable stimulus package since key provisions of the bipartisan CARES Act lapsed this summer, leaving American families in the lurch. Pelosi indicated on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that deal talks were progressing, and a spokesperson for Pelosi said on Twitter Monday that, after speaking to Mnuchin for an hour, she would talk to him yet again Tuesday.
With relief talks upended, Trump said he wanted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to focus his attention on the Supreme Court confirmation process — something the Republican senator is already clearly doing, despite COVID-19 streaking through the White House.
Trump had tweeted just Saturday, while still hospitalized with COVID-19, that Congress should pass a stimulus deal. It’s unclear why he’s completely reversed course, but he said on Twitter Tuesday that the economy was doing “very well.”
While unemployment rates are falling, economic indicators suggest the country’s recovery has actually slowed. Trump also pointed to the success of the stock market in his tweets, although his statements about stalling negotiations appeared to promptly send shares lower.
On Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell also said Congress should come up with a stimulus package, saying there was little risk of “overdoing it.”
“Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses,” Powell said in a speech to the National Association for Business Economics, according to USA Today. “Over time, household insolvencies and business bankruptcies would rise, harming the productive capacity of the economy, and holding back wage growth.”