Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump says he will not negotiate on COVID relief until after election


Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he has instructed his representatives to stop negotiating with House Democrats on coronavirus relief until after the election, accusing Speaker Nancy Pelosi of "not negotiating in good faith."

Why it matters: The failure to deliver desperately needed aid to Americans was seen as a problem for both parties. Trump has now made it a White House decision to end negotiations.

Behind the scenes: Several Trump advisers told Axios' Jonathan Swan they are utterly perplexed by the decision. They need this like a punch in the face.

  • A Trump campaign adviser said of the president's decision to own pulling out of the talks: "You have to try to be this politically inept. What is going on in the White House? Where is Mark Meadows?"
  • One GOP lawmaker told Axios that this is "a gift" for Pelosi.

Timing: The president’s tweet comes as talks between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been building steam. But the two leaders have remained far apart on key issues, including increased funding for state and local governments, and Mnuchin confirmed that Trump was walking away from the table in a call with Pelosi at 3:30 pm ET.

  • It also comes hours after Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell warned that the U.S. economy is in for a "longer than expected slog back to full recovery" and that there's little risk of "overdoing" economic support — a nod to Congress and the administration.
  • The stock market turned negative in the minutes after Trump's tweet.

What they're saying: "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 request, and looking to the future of our Country," Trump tweeted.

  • "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. I have asked 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 also coming back in record numbers. We are leading the World in Economic Recovery, and THE BEST IS YET TO COME!"

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters he supports Trump's decision to pull the plug on negotiations.

  • "I think his view was that they were not going to produce a result and we needed to concentrate on what's achievable," McConnell said.

Of note: Late Tuesday, Trump posted multiple tweets from the White House on various issues while recovering from the coronavirus, including one saying Congress should "IMMEDIATELY" bring back lapsed stimulus checks.

The other side: Pelosi ripped into Trump in a statement on Tuesday afternoon, saying: "Today, 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."

Between the lines: Both sides wanted to strike a deal on stimulus funding, not only to help struggling individuals and businesses, but also because it would be politically beneficial.

  • Pelosi has been under immense pressure from the more moderate wing of the Democratic caucus, which has insisted on bringing back some form of tangible relief to their constituents before Election Day.
  • The White House has long seen a new stimulus deal as a way to bump the economy and line more Americans' pockets with direct payments before Nov. 3.
  • 72% of voters supported another $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package in a New York Times/Siena College poll last month.

The bottom line: Neither party was willing to concede on huge areas of disagreement. Congressional Democrats largely believe that they will be in a stronger position after the election to pass a more comprehensive relief bill with their top priorities, while Trump seems to be banking on winning the White House and Congress.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include Trump's late-night Twitter comments.

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