WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump put an end to months of negotiations over a COVID-19 stimulus package Tuesday, rejecting the Democrats’ latest offer and saying he wanted to postpone negotiations until after the November election.
In a Tuesday afternoon tweet, Trump said Democrats were “not negotiating in good faith.” He told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to instead “focus full time” on confirming Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
“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.
The president’s rejection and insistence on restarting negotiations after Nov. 3 means both parties head into a crucial election without more relief for Americans struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to unprecedented levels of unemployment and caused businesses to suffer as states impose social distancing measures.
In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump had put his interests above the country’s and said he was “unwilling to crush the virus.”
“Clearly, the White House is in complete disarray,” she said.
Hours before Trump spiked talks, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell urged Congress to pass more stimulus relief, saying inadequate support would weaken recovery from the coronavirus recession.
Markets, which had been bolstered by the hopes of a stimulus deal, plunged after Trump’s announcement. The Dow Jones tumbled by about 350 points after rising about 200 points earlier on expectations for an agreement while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down about 1.2%.
The president ended negotiations the day after he returned to the White House Monday evening after spending three days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he was being treated for COVID-19. He faced heavy criticism Monday for telling Americans not to fear the virus, saying “Don’t let it dominate your life.”
Trump’s announcement comes as many of the benefits previously approved by Congress in the spring have ran out. The $600 federal boost to unemployment benefits stopped in July, a loan forgiveness program for small businesses also expired, and airlines have warned of mass layoffs and furloughs after their billions of dollars in federal payroll assistance expired.
After negotiations fell apart in August, President Donald Trump issued several executive orders aimed at providing relief. Negotiations stalemated as both sides remained unable to agree on issues like the amount of the federal boost to unemployment insurance and state and local funding. Republicans said the unemployment benefit could work as a disincentive to working if it were too much money.
Both sides also had deadlocked over the amount of aid to give to state and local governments as well. Republicans were wary of adding to the deficit and say the money would bail out mismanaged local governments.
Trump’s tweet seemed to indicate the state and local funding provisions of a stimulus deal remained a major sticking point, writing that Democrats wanted money to “bailout poorly run, high crime, Democrat States, money that is in no way related to COVID-19.”
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Democrats seemed to have grow more bullish about a deal going into last weekend. Pelosi said Friday on MSNBC she was “optimistic” about a deal, saying Trump’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis “changes the dynamic.” She and Mnuchin talked Monday as they continued to work through remaining areas of disagreement.
Pelosi said in a letter to House Democrats Friday she and Mnuchin were working through five main areas of disagreement:
The dollar amount of the federal boost to unemployment benefits
Funding for school and state and local governments
Tax credit provisions for children and families
Testing and contact tracing funding
Appropriations for Democratic priorities like transit
Trump, who had urged Republicans to accept more aid, tweeted in all caps Saturday, “OUR GREAT USA WANTS & NEEDS STIMULUS. WORK TOGETHER AND GET IT DONE.” White House negotiators had most recently proposed $1.6 trillion in relief, but Democrats held fast at $2.2 trillion for their plan, leaving the two sides hundreds of billions of dollars apart.
More: Stocks fall after Trump tweets he’ll delay stimulus talks until after election
Trump’s stance to end negotiations could be a gamble for both him and congressional Republicans just four weeks before Election Day. Senate Republicans hold a 53-47 majority and polling suggests Democrats have a chance of taking several seats and with it, the majority in the chamber.
Republicans have for weeks blamed Democratic leadership for the lapse in aid and the impasse over future relief, but now their party’s top leader is publicly spiking his discussions over another bill.
Democrats had been feeling the pressure back home. Vulnerable House Democrats, especially those in seats that Trump won in 2016, have repeatedly attempted to sway congressional leadership into coming to a deal and have asked Pelosi to take on smaller bills to tackle some of the immediate priorities, such as unemployment or refueling the small business loan program, a suggestion she opposed. A bipartisan group of moderate lawmakers, known as The Problem Solvers Caucus, even proposed their own legislation to offer a middle ground in hopes of fueling negotiations.
Both the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate have tried to pass their own proposals, but both failed to advance a bill that could become law. Last week, the House passed a smaller, $2.2 trillion relief bill, a scaled-back version of the Heroes Act, a $3 trillion proposal that passed the House in May, but was never voted on in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The scaled-down bill helped serve as a way to appease moderate lawmakers, who had pushed Democratic leaders to act on stimulus before lawmakers left to campaign.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID stimulus update: Trump rejects Democratic offer, eyes election