Trump proposes $1.8T coronavirus relief package
Inching closer to Democrats’ demands, President Trump and his aides on Friday offered Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief package, sources said, as the president urged the negotiators to “go big.”
The new figure was a jump from the White House’s $1.6 trillion offer last week, but there was no indication that Pelosi would come down from her demand for a $2.2 trillion package.
“Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!” Trump tweeted on Friday morning, a striking reversal from his position on Tuesday when he said he would walk away from negotiations with Democrats on a comprehensive relief bill to assist businesses and American workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
And in a sign of how much the president has oscillated on the issue, Trump told conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh in an interview later Friday afternoon that he wanted a larger package that either Democrats or Republicans have offered, representing a break with what his own White House is now offering Capitol Hill.
“I would like to see a bigger stimulus package, frankly, than either the Democrats or the Republicans are offering. I’m going in the exact opposite now. OK?” Trump said.
In one concession, the White House is raising its offer on emergency aid for cash-strapped cities and states to $300 billion, up from a $250 billion offer last week, sources said. A bill passed by House Democrats last week calls for $436 billion in aid for state and local governments.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s chief negotiator, formally made the new offer to Pelosi in a short 30-minute phone call Friday afternoon, but a top Pelosi aide indicated there was no breakthrough.
“Today, the Secretary returned to the table with a proposal that attempted to address some of the concerns Democrats have,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill tweeted. “Of special concern, is the absence of an agreement on a strategic plan to crush the virus. For this and other provisions, we are still awaiting language from the Administration as negotiations on the overall funding amount continue.”
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters at the White House that Trump had settled on a “revised” stimulus package but declined to offer details, beyond saying that it addressed stimulus checks and airline assistance. He did not offer a specific dollar amount at the time.
He did not indicate whether Democrats had agreed to the deal and noted that Pelosi and Mnuchin would be discussing the potential agreement. The White House previously said it would raise its stimulus offer to $1.6 trillion; House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion bill last week.
“The developments are very positive, they are very constructive. This is breakthrough stuff and it happened this morning,” Kudlow said, sounding optimistic about the prospect of an agreement.
Trump, who himself was hospitalized with the coronavirus over the weekend, has sent conflicting messages on his position on stimulus in recent days. On Tuesday, the president abruptly called off the talks between his White House and Pelosi until after the Nov. 3 elections, accusing Democrats of negotiating in “bad faith” and seeking “bailouts” for states he says are poorly run by Democrats, a move that sent stocks tumbling.
Trump tweeted later that evening that he wanted Congress to approve standalone bills offering airline assistance, more money for a small business loan program and checks to Americans.
Mnuchin has spoken with Pelosi several times over the past few days despite Trump’s original claim to have called off negotiations on a broader bill. According to Pelosi’s office, Mnuchin told the speaker Thursday that the president is interested in reaching a comprehensive agreement.
Negotiations between the White House and Capitol Hill on a fifth round of stimulus have dragged on since the end of July without an agreement. As talk stalled in August, Trump acted unilaterally, signing executive orders meant to extend a federal moratorium on evictions and offer a payroll tax referral.
With less than four weeks before the elections, there remains broad skepticism in Washington that a deal will be agreed upon and pass the House and Senate before Election Day. Trump is currently trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden in national and swing state polls, and a stimulus agreement could offer him something to tout as he makes his final case to voters. Some of Trump’s outside advisers, however, have urged Trump against agreeing to a large stimulus bill.
Pelosi, appearing on MSNBC shortly before news of the White House offer, said she still remained hopeful for an agreement but pointed out that the president has been inconsistent throughout the week about whether he truly wants a big deal.
“The devil and the angels are in the details. And so part of it is about money, and part of it is about policy,” Pelosi told MSNBC host Craig Melvin. “And so we’ll continue our conversation today, because it is so necessary to meet the needs of the American people.
“I do hope that we will have an agreement soon,” she said, but added that Trump keeps “changing” his position.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated Friday that he does not expect Congress and the White House to reach an agreement on the next stimulus package before the election.
“I think the murkiness is a result of the proximity to the election, and everybody kind of trying to elbow for political advantage. I’d like to see us rise above that … but I think that’s unlikely in the next three weeks,” McConnell told reporters in Kentucky.
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