Trump’s back-and-forth injects chaos into Covid relief effort


President Donald Trump pushed for more coronavirus relief Wednesday morning after abruptly calling off talks a day earlier — further muddling the administration’s messaging as millions remain unemployed and key industries falter.

In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that he and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were actively considering a stimulus measure aimed at distributing checks to Americans while providing aid to airlines and small businesses.

The remarks from Meadows — who, along with Mnuchin, has served as one of Trump’s top negotiators on Capitol Hill — came just hours after the president announced on Twitter that he was postponing talks to secure a new economic aid package until after the November election.

“The president [has] already been on the phone this morning talking to Secretary Mnuchin,” Meadows said Wednesday. “The secretary and I have been talking about what we could do with stand-alone bills to help airlines, small businesses and the American people, with stimulus checks. So, hopefully, we can convince Speaker Pelosi to do something on a stand-alone basis.”

Trump’s Tuesday decision to abandon stimulus negotiations sent the stock market into a downward slide. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell had warned earlier Tuesday that if Congress and the White House did not do more to boost the economy, it could lead to “unnecessary hardship” — a view Trump now appears to endorse.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi had proposed at least $2.4 trillion in stimulus, but Trump said he would not agree to a deal of more than $1.6 trillion. “I am rejecting their … request, and looking to the future of our Country,” he tweeted Tuesday afternoon after a phone call with Mnuchin and Republican congressional leaders.

But later Tuesday night, Trump reversed course and seemingly sought to restart relief talks, tweeting that he would approve a stimulus measure to send Americans $1,200 checks “IMMEDIATELY” amid the pandemic. “I am ready to sign right now. Are you listening Nancy?” he wrote.

The president confused matters further Wednesday morning, minutes after Meadows’ interview, when he took to Twitter to urge Pelosi: “Move Fast, I Am Waiting To Sign!” Although talks between Pelosi and the White House have stalled, her discussions with Mnuchin intensified last week.

Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s spokesperson, said that Mnuchin asked about a standalone airlines bill with Pelosi Wednesday morning, but the speaker “reminded him that Republicans blocked that bill on Friday & asked him to review the DeFazio bill so that they could have an informed conversation.”

On Friday, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) tried to push through an airline payroll support bill on the House floor via unanimous consent, but Republicans objected, essentially blocking the effort.

Pelosi and congressional Democrats have previously expressed opposition to a piecemeal stimulus proposal, arguing it does not meet the mammoth needs of an economy still reeling from the effects of Covid-19 restrictions and unemployed workers. Millions have lost their jobs, and the coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Americans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also would face difficulty convincing his GOP caucus to get on board with a big, last-minute agreement, as he remains focused on the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

But some vulnerable Republicans, including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), broke with the president over halting talks, with Katko urging Trump to rethink his decision.

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