U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters during a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 23, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters
President Donald Trump pressured Congress to pass a coronavirus stimulus plan Saturday as his administration and congressional Democrats struggle to forge a relief deal.
In a tweet sent as the president receives treatment for Covid-19 at Walter Reed Medical Center, the president wrote, “OUR GREAT USA WANTS & NEEDS STIMULUS.”
“WORK TOGETHER AND GET IT DONE. Thank you!” he continued.
Trump’s tweet plunges him more fully into the tug-of-war over pandemic aid than he has been throughout weeks of talks between his advisors and Democratic leaders. Republicans and Democrats have failed to inject new money into the U.S. economy and health-care system for months as the GOP worries about runaway spending and Democrats push for a sweeping relief package.
An unexpectedly weak September jobs report, along with tens of thousands of newly announced layoffs and furloughs this week, have added to concerns the boost from previous rounds of stimulus is fading.
Sustained pressure from the president could make some Republicans, particularly in the GOP-held Senate, more comfortable embracing a stimulus deal. On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump’s diagnosis “kind of changes the dynamic” of her talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin because Republicans will see “this is a vicious virus.”
Writing to her caucus on Friday, the California Democrat wrote that she hoped the sides could strike a deal despite “significant disagreement in key areas.” She added that “we continue to work on the text to move quickly to facilitate an agreement.”
Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion relief package on Thursday night, while the White House has offered a $1.6 trillion bill. The sides have found common ground on policies including direct payments to Americans, small business loans and aid to airlines to help cover payroll and prevent tens of thousands of furloughs.
Topics of dispute include unemployment insurance (Democrats have proposed $600 per week in extra benefits, while the White House has supported $400 weekly) and relief for states and municipalities (Democrats have offered more than $400 billion, higher than the $250 billion proposed by the White House). The sides have also disagreed over the child tax credit, earned income tax credit, child care assistance funds and money for Covid-19 testing and tracing.
The Democratic-held House left for the month Friday, but could return to pass legislation if Pelosi and Mnuchin can craft an agreement. The full Senate will not convene until Oct. 19 after three GOP senators, two of whom attended last weekend’s White House event announcing the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, tested positive for Covid-19.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted Saturday afternoon that he had talked to the president about several topics, including the Supreme Court and “strengthening the economy.”
The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee will still forge ahead with its hearing on Barrett’s nomination set for Oct. 12.
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