President Donald Trump joined top GOP lawmakers on a phone call earlier Tuesday to discuss the next round of Covid-19 stimulus before ultimately announcing that he’s directed his top negotiators to postpone talks until after the election.
The president, who thus far has relied on White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to lead the negotiations, participated in the call during his first full day back from the hospital, an administration official confirmed to CNBC.
Other GOP leaders on the phone call included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Mnuchin.
Trump later Tuesday said he has told his administration’s negotiators to end coronavirus stimulus talks with Democrats until after the Nov. 3 election.
The declaration, if the White House follows through on it, would halt an ongoing push to send trillions of dollars more in relief to Americans as the outbreak rampages through the U.S. and the economy struggles to recover from virus-related shutdowns.
Though the president had for weeks left Meadows and Mnuchin in charge, he on Saturday took to Twitter from his hospitalization at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to call on Congress to strike a deal.
“OUR GREAT USA WANTS & NEEDS STIMULUS. WORK TOGETHER AND GET IT DONE. Thank you!” he wrote at the time. The president was discharged from Walter Reed on Monday evening and continues to be treated for Covid-19.
House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package on Thursday even as the two sides struggled to reach a deal. But McConnell and other GOP senators have opposed the legislation as too large and argue that spending trillions more would not be worth ballooning the national debt further.
The latest deadlock comes as the country reports tens of thousands of new Covid-19 cases per day and some of the largest U.S. firms plan new layoffs and furloughs.
Adding to the urgency, the $600 per week supplemental unemployment benefit, the federal moratorium on evictions and the window to apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans all expired weeks ago.
Politico first reported the news of the phone call.