Trump ends coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate with Pelosi
President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is ending negotiations with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders over a new economic aid package to respond to the coronavirus until after Nov. 3, a momentous decision that will impact the millions of Americans suffering from the pandemic and could sway the outcome of the election.
One day after being released from the hospital after contracting Covid-19, Trump blamed Pelosi for the failure to reach an agreement on the coronavirus relief legislation. But in reality the two sides have remained hundreds of billions of dollars apart through high-level discussions that have dragged on since July.
With Trump’s decision to end the negotiations, Democrats and Republicans will now battle over who is to blame while millions of Americans continue to suffer serious financial and medical hardships. More than 210,000 Americans have died from the virus and millions of others remain out of work.
“Nancy Pelosi is asking for $2.4 Trillion Dollars to bailout poorly run, high crime, Democrat States, money that is in no way related to COVID-19. 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,” Trump tweeted Tuesday afternoon following a phone call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
“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.”
Trump added: “I have asked Mitch McConnell not to delay, but to instead focus full time on approving my outstanding nominee to the United States Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett.”
McConnell told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday that he backed Trump’s decision to withdraw from the negotiations.
“I think his view was, they were not gonna produce a result, and we need to concentrate on what’s achievable,” McConnell told reporters.
Trump’s move stunned many on Capitol Hill, including Pelosi, and represents an enormous — and politically perilous — gamble by Republicans. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has been heavily disapproved of by the American public and threatens to sink his reelection bid, as well as the Senate GOP majority, according to public-opinion polls. Now, Trump is betting he can convince skeptical Americans that he can save the economy, even as a coronavirus outbreak inside the White House has forced his own aides into quarantine.
Pelosi blasted Trump for the decision, pointing to the unprecedented scene of the last five days, with Trump having to be taken to Walter Reed Medical Center by helicopter after he and first lady Melania Trump contracted coronavirus.
“Clearly the White House is in complete disarray,” Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “Today, once again, President Trump showed his true colors: putting himself first at the expense of the country, with the full complicity of the GOP members of Congress.”
Pelosi announced the news of Trump’s tweet during a private Democratic Caucus call that was already underway. Pelosi slammed Trump on the call, saying Democrats had worked meticulously to create a “strategic plan to crush this virus” that Trump then blew up in a series of tweets.
Pelosi went on to say Trump, who just days earlier pushed for a deal, was sending the country “a terrible message” by appearing maskless at the White House Monday in his high-profile return from the hospital and recording a subsequent video without a mask downplaying the impact of the deadly virus.
Pelosi also insinuated that Trump’s rash decision could be impacted by the steroids doctors prescribed to help him fight off the coronavirus.
“There are people who thought, who think that steroids have an impact on your thinking. So, I don’t know,” Pelosi said. “I do practice medicine on the side without benefit of diploma, as a mother and a grandmother, but I hadn’t gone into mental health yet.”
In a statement, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden criticized the president for ending talks and turning his back “on the small businesses that are struggling to keep their doors open.”
“Make no mistake: if you are out of work, if your business is closed, if your child’s school is shut down, if you are seeing layoffs in your community, Donald Trump decided today that none of that — none of it — matters to him,” he said. “There will be no help from Washington for the foreseeable future.”
Mnuchin and Pelosi had been negotiating in private for days. Those talks had led to some progress, but the two sides remained far apart on a number of key issues — aid to state and local governments; legal liability protections for schools and businesses that reopened; federal payments for the unemployed; a child tax credit; and other issues. Pelosi and Mnuchin had been swapping offers and were supposed to have another call Tuesday afternoon.
But GOP insiders said Trump was “very disappointed” with the progress of the negotiations following his call with Mnuchin, McConnell and McCarthy. The decision was made to “pull the plug [on the talks] and take it to the American people.”
But Trump on Tuesday sent multiple tweets late into the night that seemingly contradicted his decision to end talks, including a post stating the House and Senate “should IMMEDIATELY Approve 25 Billion Dollars for Airline Payroll Support, & 135 Billion Dollars for Paycheck Protection Program for Small Business.”
Swing-district House Democrats — who had been most aggravated that talks between the two parties were taking so long to begin with — were in disbelief at Trump’s tweet announcing the end of negotiations. Several argued that while it would be disastrous for millions of suffering families, it would also allow Democrats to pin the blame squarely on Trump and the GOP in the final few weeks of campaigning.
These centrist Democrats, roughly two dozen in the tightest races in the nation, had been making personal pleas to Pelosi and her leadership team, urging them to reach a deal over the weekend. But Trump’s tweet dramatically changes the calculus, with Democrats now able to aggressively go after the GOP for the inaction.
“After getting the best medical care for Covid-19, Trump is telling the rest of us we’re on our own,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.). “It’s a tragic development for all Americans based on a cynical political calculation.”
Now, those worries will intensify among vulnerable Senate Republicans, who had already stepped up their calls for the two parties to reach a deal in recent weeks, weary of the fallout back home with increasingly frustrated voters.
The breakdown in the stimulus negotiations comes as pressure has been increasing on Washington to act, with the U.S. economy continuing to sputter. Earlier on Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell delivered a rare plea to Congress for more stimulus, warning of widespread layoffs and economic despair if there was no further relief.
“Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses,” Powell said as he addressed a meeting of the National Association for Business Economics.
Already, the nation’s jobless rate remains at record highs and key industries — from airlines to oil refineries — are shedding more jobs by the day. The stock market had remained high, but key indexes tanked within minutes of the president’s decision to withdraw from the talks.