The roller coaster ride that is President Donald Trump’s position on another 10-digit pandemic relief bill shows no sign of slowing down. The president now says he has resumed talks with House Democrats over a compromise proposal.
“Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!” tweeted the president today.
Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2020
That’s a reversal from Tuesday, when Trump surprised everybody—including, reportedly, members of his own administration—by abruptly announcing that he was walking away from negotiations until after the election, criticizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) for wanting to bail out “poorly run, high crime, Democrat States.”
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. We made a very generous offer of $1.6 Trillion Dollars and, as usual, she is not negotiating in good faith. I am rejecting their…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 6, 2020
The president followed up that comment with a series of tweets urging the passage of an airline bailout and another round of $1,200 checks. The resumption of talks returns Trump to the position he held on Saturday when he was insisting that Congress work together to pass a relief bill.
OUR GREAT USA WANTS & NEEDS STIMULUS. WORK TOGETHER AND GET IT DONE. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 3, 2020
With the president now back on board, House Democrats and the White House can continue to chat about how many trillions to spend on a relief bill before the election.
Last week, the House passed a $2.2 trillion relief proposal that included a continuation of expanded unemployment benefits, another round of $1,200 checks, and aid for airlines, renters, small businesses, and state and local governments.
The White House, according to reporting from the Wall Street Journal, has upped the amount of relief spending it could agree to from $1.6 trillion to $1.8 trillion.
Potentially holding everything up is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.), who today threw cold water on the idea that a COVID-19 spending bill would pass Congress in the next three weeks, according to The Washington Post‘s Erica Werner. Axios reports that Senate Republicans have no appetite to pass a bill largely crafted by Pelosi and would rather focus on confirming Amy Coney Barret to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Senate Republicans put forward a scaled-back “skinny stimulus” in September that would have extended, but scaled back the size of, expanded federal unemployment benefits, offered new loans to small and medium-sized businesses, and provided firms with liability protections from coronavirus-related lawsuits. Senate Democrats blocked that proposal.
The silver lining of Trump’s erratic position-shifting is that taxpayers might escape paying for yet another gigantic expansion of federal spending at a time when the national debt is already roughly the size of the economy and the U.S. Treasury is running monthly deficits approaching $1 trillion.