BETHESDA, MD – OCTOBER 03: In this handout provided by The White House, President Donald J. Trump works in the Presidential Suite at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after testing positive for COVID-19 on October 3, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. President Trump’s medical team says the President’s oxygen levels dropped and he took a steroid treatment of dexamethasone. (Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian/The White House via Getty Images)
After leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center last night, President Trump resumed his usual pace of tweeting today as he continues to recover from COVID-19. A few hours after declaring that he was “FEELING GREAT!”, Trump announced that he has ordered White House stimulus negotiations to stop until after the election.
Lawmakers have been debating the next stimulus package since July, when important provisions of the CARES Act, like the $600/week unemployment boost, were about to expire. That deadline came and went, and for months, Democrats and Republicans have been unable to agree on a proposal. Democrats originally wanted a bill that would provide over $3 trillion in aid — the Heroes Act, which passed the House in May, budgeted $3.4 trillion for Americans. Senate Republicans have countered with far skimpier proposals, including one that only provides $650 billion in aid. Last Thursday, the House passed a sparse version of the original Heroes act that would cost $2.2 trillion, but Senate Republicans have indicated that they will not vote on it. On Friday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi indicated hope that they were closer to reaching a deal on the stimulus in light of the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis. Now, it appears that those talks have been shut down by Trump himself.
In a series of tweets, Trump claimed that Pelosi had demanded a $2.4 trillion proposal that would bail out “high crime” Democrat-led states. The White House, meanwhile, offered a $1.6 trillion proposal. Trump declared that the next stimulus would instead be passed “immediately after” he won a second term, indicating that this is a move to hold much-needed COVID-19 relief hostage in exchange for votes.
Trump then directed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to focus on confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court rather than pushing through a stimulus bill before the election. Since the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republicans have remained intent on nominating and approving a new justice as quickly as possible. At least 11 people who were at a White House celebration of Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination on September 26th have been confirmed to have COVID-19.
While Republicans and Democrats have been divided on the amount of aid to give, including the amount of supplemental unemployment and how much funding states and local governments should receive, both sides have agreed that the next COVID-19 relief bill should include a second $1,200 direct stimulus payment. With negotiations forced to a screeching halt, Americans will be waiting even longer for their stimulus checks. About 28 million people are currently unemployed, relying only on meager state unemployment benefits that usually replace less than half of lost wages. An increasing number of Americans have been dropping out of the workforce altogether, facing long-term unemployment with no real job prospects amid a pandemic. A disproportionate number of those leaving the workforce have been women, with 865,000 dropping out between August and September. The latest version of the stimulus bill also contained aid for the struggling airline industry, where tens of thousands of workers have been laid off or furloughed. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell called on Congress today to provide more economic relief, warning that failure to do so would stymie recovery.
Despite these clear signs of economic hardship, Trump claimed several times today that the economy appeared to be in good shape. “The Fake News Media refuses to discuss how good the Economy and Stock Market, including JOBS under the Trump Administration, are doing,” he wrote in a tweet. “All they want to discuss is COVID 19.” To date, COVID-19 has killed 210,239 people in the U.S. Earlier today, a tweet in which President Trump likened COVID-19 to the flu was hidden by Twitter for violating its guidelines on spreading misinformation. After Trump’s decision to halt the stimulus, the Dow Jones dropped 375 points.
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