With lawmakers stuck at a bitter impasse over the next federal coronavirus aid bill, President Trump on Wednesday took to Twitter to encourage Republican lawmakers to accept a proposal with a higher price tag—that would be a major departure from the pared-down spending plan the GOP has embraced during months of fruitless negotiations.
House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that they were “encouraged” by Trump’s tweet: “we look forward to hearing from the President’s negotiators that they will finally meet us halfway,” they wrote.
House Democrats originally passed their $3.4 relief trillion proposal in May, and Pelosi later said that she would drop the party’s ask to $2.2 trillion if the White House would meet it.
The White House, on the other hand, had signaled that it was not prepared to support a bill worth more than about $1.3 trillion.
The Senate GOP, mired by internal divisions and absent from the negotiating table this summer, has consistently pushed for smaller, targeted legislation.
It started out with a fractured plan that would have appropriated $1 trillion in new spending (that plan never came up for a vote), and last week the Senate GOP introduced (and again failed to pass) a “skinny” bill that featured just $300 billion in new spending.
In Washington, Trump’s tweet was received by lawmakers as a sign that wants an urgent compromise on new stimulus legislation ahead of the election.
Trump also cast blame on Democrats for delays in coronavirus relief legislation, suggesting that the party doesn’t support sending out another round of direct payments, which is not entirely true. Over the last weeks and months, Democrats, Republicans, and the White House all appeared to agree on the need for another round of stimulus checks. Back in May, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed its proposal for the next round of aid, the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act, which included a provision for more $1,200 checks for individuals, plus another $1,200 for each qualifying dependent. The $300 billion Senate Republican proposal last week, however, did not include any stimulus checks (though the GOP’s original $1 trillion plan did).
Frustrated by inaction in Washington, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers on Tuesday released its framework for a compromise on the next bill as a way to push top lawmakers back to the negotiating table. That plan also included money for a second round of checks, and on top of that incorporated a “booster” provision that would send a third round of direct payments in March depending on the course of the pandemic. The framework is not a bill, however, and it’s not clear whether lawmakers will take up any part of it in future legislation.