WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that he is ending negotiations on a coronavirus relief bill until after he wins the election.
The last major coronavirus aid bill expired two months ago, at the end of July, ending federal unemployment benefits that millions of Americans had relied on during the pandemic. Talks between the White House and House Democrats have been stalled since then but seemed to pick up momentum in recent days. Trump torpedoed that momentum by saying he is directing his staff to cease negotiations.
“I am rejecting [Democrats’] request, and looking to the future of our Country. 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 tweeted. He said the Senate will instead focus on confirming Amy Coney Barrett, his nominee to the Supreme Court.
Trump’s tweets caused a stock market dive within moments, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 240 points. As recently as yesterday Trump was touting the markets as a key to his reelection campaign. Three days ago, while in hospital, Trump had tweeted “OUR GREAT USA WANTS & NEEDS STIMULUS. WORK TOGETHER AND GET IT DONE. Thank you!”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had been scheduled to meet for negotiations later Tuesday. Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said that when the two spoke by phone at the planned time they had only a brief discussion in which Mnuchin confirmed that Trump has walked away from talks.
The biggest sticking point has been the size of the package, in particular the amount of aid given to state and local governments. On Twitter, Trump accused Democrats of “asking for $2.4 Trillion Dollars to bailout poorly run, high crime, Democrat States.”
The aid package being negotiated would also have included another round of $1,200 direct cash payments to individuals, enhanced unemployment benefits, billions of dollars in assistance for small businesses, aid for the airline industry, and money for coronavirus testing. None of those measures now seem likely to pass before the election.
Pelosi released a statement accusing Trump of showing contempt for science and for workers.
“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,” she said.
On Tuesday morning, just hours before Trump’s tweets, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned of the “tragic” consequences if the White House and Congress do not pass a robust stimulus package to ward off a spike in bankruptcies and business closures.
“Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses,” Powell said.
Trump also dealt a blow to Republicans in tight election races. Republicans had been attempting to blame Democrats for not agreeing to a new stimulus package, a message Trump dramatically undercut with his tweets Tuesday.
Democrats quickly seized on Trump’s announcement. “Remember this tweet when you don't have another stimulus check in your mailbox this fall,” tweeted Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly.
While Trump said he would pass a relief bill after the election, he has a long history of not delivering on such promises. Since he entered politics, Trump has frequently promised to replace Obamacare with a new system that would provide better health care to more people for less cost. He never unveiled any such plan. The White House recently unveiled Trump's "health care vision for America." It doesn't actually do anything.
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