Trump Halt of COVID-19 Relief Talks Draws Sharp Rebuke on Capitol Hill

October 6, 2020 by Dan McCue
President Donald Trump waves from the Blue Room Balcony upon returning to the White House Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington, after leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md. Trump announced he tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 2. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — Anger on Capitol Hill boiled over Tuesday after President Donald Trump called an abrupt end to negotiations with House Democrats over additional coronavirus relief, delaying action until after the election.

Trump announced he was walking away from the bargaining table Tuesday afternoon in a flurry of tweets in which he accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of “not negotiating in good faith.”

He went on to urge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “to instead focus full time on approving my outstanding nominee to the United States Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett.”

The announcement sent stocks on Wall Street — one of the president’s favorite economic barometers — sharply lower.

The S&P 500 fell 47.66 points to 3,360.97. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 375.88 points, or 1.3%, to 27,772.76. It had been up by more than 200 points.

The Nasdaq composite lost 177.88 points, or 1.6%, to 11,154.60. The tech-heavy index had been on pace for a 0.5% gain before Trump cut off the stimulus talks.

Small stocks also fell, but less than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks gave up 4.67 points, or 0.3%, to 1,577.29.

Helping to fuel the pessimism was the fact the tweets came only hours after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell urged Congress to come through with more aid, saying that too little support “would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses.”

“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.

“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,” Trump wrote. “We made a very generous offer of $1.6 Trillion Dollars and, as usual, she is not negotiating in good faith. …

“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. Our Economy is doing very well. The Stock Market is at record levels, JOBS and unemployment,” he added.

Trump is in quarantine in the White House with a case of COVID-19, and the latest opinion polls shows him significantly behind former Vice President Joe Biden with the election four weeks away.

The collapse of relief talks means Trump and down-ballot Republicans will face reelection without delivering aid to voters.

After Trump ended negotiations, Pelosi said “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.”

“Walking away from coronavirus talks demonstrates that President Trump is unwilling to crush the virus, as is required by the Heroes Act,” the Speaker said in a statement.  “He shows his contempt for science, his disdain for our heroes – in health care, first responders, sanitation, transportation, food workers, teachers, and others – and he refuses to put money in workers’ pockets, unless his name is printed on the check.

“At the same time, the President is abandoning meeting the needs of our children as they adjust to learning in-person, virtual or hybrid,” Pelosi said. “Instead, Trump is wedded to his $150 billion tax cut for the wealthiest people in America from the CARES Act, while he refuses to give real help to poor children, the unemployed and America’s hard working families.”

“Clearly, the White House is in complete disarray,” the Speaker added. ” Sadly, they are rejecting the urgent warnings of Fed Chairman Powell today, that ‘Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses.  Over time, household insolvencies and business bankruptcies would rise, harming the productive capacity of the economy and holding back wage growth.  By contrast, the risks of overdoing it seem, for now, to be smaller.  Even if policy actions ultimately prove to be greater than needed, they will not go to waste.’”

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., accused Trump of “turning his back on the American people in their hour of greatest need.

“Families are going hungry and losing their homes. More than 210,000 Americans have died of the virus, and cases are rising across the country,” Neal said. “Our economy is in a deep recession. Yet the President is walking away from efforts to provide folks who are struggling with the relief they need to survive. This decision is a dangerous one, and I sincerely hope he will return to the table for the good of our nation.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said “it is profoundly disturbing that President Trump has abandoned ongoing bipartisan talks.

“His tweets announcing this decision reveal that his only concern now is a desperate attempt to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court,” Lowey said. “I can only assume this rush is motivated by a desire to have conservative justices in place to bless his ongoing attempts to steal the election in November and to quickly overturn the Affordable Care Act, kicking millions of Americans off their health care in the middle of this pandemic.

“Today is a sad day for the American people, who will be denied the help they need. And it is a stark reminder that this President and the sycophants in his party are simply not up to the task of leading our nation in this moment,” she added.

Likewise Reps. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., and Tom Reed, R-N.Y., co-chairs of the Problem Solvers Caucus, released a joint statement in which they said, “American families and America’s small businesses are hurting and cannot afford more delays — especially when a deal is within reach.

“The 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans of the Problem Solvers Caucus have already crafted a bipartisan framework for relief that has been widely supported, including by the Administration,” they said. “We cannot overstate how important it is that leaders in both parties — along with the President — return to the table and agree on a package that will provide immediate relief to families and businesses. Inaction is not an option.”

Also weighing in was Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., who said, “our nation’s response to COVID-19 is not a game, and as each day passes without progress on a bipartisan relief package, Americans are facing the increasing effects of hunger, bankruptcy, or the loss of a job.

“Just today, we heard from the Chairman of the Federal Reserve about the pressing need for additional action from Congress, or else risk further economic disaster,” she said. “I’ve been vocal about the need for a bipartisan path forward on direct payments, unemployment assistance, and additional support for businesses — and the President throwing in the towel is not an acceptable option. The American people are tired of the political maneuvering and partisanship that has plagued Capitol Hill throughout the latter portion of the pandemic. Real livelihoods are on the line, and we can’t stop fighting for the people we serve. Both Democrats and Republicans must recommit to good-faith negotiations.”

Last week, Spanberger called for leadership in both parties to come to an agreement on coronavirus relief that can be approved by the U.S. Senate and be signed into law by President Trump.

Early rounds of coronavirus relief passed by overwhelming margins as the economy went into lockdown in March. After that, Trump and many of his GOP allies focused more on loosening social and economic restrictions as the key to recovery instead of more taxpayer-funded aid.

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