U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday called off negotiations with Democratic lawmakers on coronavirus relief legislation until after the election, even as cases of the virus are on the rise across much of the country before flu season.
“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,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter a day after emerging from a hospital stay for COVID-19 treatment.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Mr. Trump’s decision to pull the plug on negotiations showed that the White House was in “complete disarray.”
Mr. Trump’s surprise move came after Ms. Pelosi on Sunday said during an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation that progress was being made in her negotiations with the Trump administration on a bill to build on the more than US$3-trillion in coronavirus aid enacted into law earlier this year.
Earlier on Tuesday, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell told a business conference the U.S. economic expansion was “far from complete” following the deep contraction stemming from the pandemic.
A failure by the United States to provide further relief, Mr. Powell warned, “would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses.”
Among the provisions that were being discussed by Ms. Pelosi and the Trump administration was a new round of direct payments to individuals like the US$1,200 cheques dispatched earlier this year amid huge job losses.
After Mr. Trump’s announcement breaking off negotiations, U.S. stocks reversed course to close lower on Tuesday.
Mr. Trump’s move, less than one month before the Nov. 3 presidential and congressional elections, was met with a fierce backlash from Democrats, especially since he instructed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to instead focus full efforts on Senate confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat.
Public opinion polls indicate that dealing with the pandemic is a top priority of voters, many of whom think filling the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat should wait until after Nov. 3.
“He would rather let jobless people go hungry just so he can steal a Supreme Court seat,” Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar said in a Twitter posting.
In recent days, financial markets were hopeful progress toward a COVID-19 vaccine and another round of economic stimulus from Congress would boost the U.S. economy, which has been showing signs of renewed weakness.
After Mr. Trump’s hospitalization for treatment of his COVID-19 infection, there also was speculation that that could provide impetus within the Trump administration to cut a quick deal with Democrats on another pandemic aid bill.
Ms. Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been talking regularly over the past week or so as they attempted to narrow the gap between a recent Democratic call for around US$2.2-trillion in new spending to battle the pandemic and bolster the economy, versus around US$1.6-trillion sought by the administration.
It was not clear whether enough Senate Republicans would have gotten behind any deal, however.
The White House said it had no further comment.
There are an estimated 7.5 million coronavirus cases diagnosed in the United States and more than 210,600 deaths, the highest in the world.
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