By Jonathan Nicholson
The coronavirus aid bill talks ended Tuesday, and the finger pointing began.
After President Donald Trump’s late-day tweets announcing his decision to pull the plug on the bargaining until after the election, Capitol Hill leaders were quick to state who deserved the blame for the apparent end of widely supported efforts to give the economy a second big boost since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a series of tweets a little more than an hour before the U.S stock markets closed, Trump accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of not negotiating in good faith and Democrats of wanting too much money for the package.
“I am rejecting their … request, and looking to the future of our Country. 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,” he wrote.
Trump said he was instructing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to focus instead on getting Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, confirmed quickly.
“When you say. ‘what is the president thinking?’ you may be using that term ‘thinking’ loosely,” Pelosi said during a remote video chat sponsored by New York City’s 92nd Street Y.
“He said ‘I want to have the Senate fully focused on the confirmation.’ So has placed the overturning of the Affordable Care Act in front of what we need to do for America’s working families, to crush the virus, reward our heroes, save our democracy,” she said.
Trump’s move hit Wall Street, where traders had held out hope for a deal, despite weeks of on-again, off-again talks in Washington. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA fell to session lows before bouncing back slightly. It still ended the day off more than 375 points, or 1.34%.
Pelosi accused Trump of backing out because he would not budge on tax provisions Democrats sought and didn’t want more direct payments to households unless his name could appear on the checks.
Pelosi’s counterpart in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said he supported Trump’s decision to end the talks.
“I think his view was that they were not going to produce a result and we needed to concentrate on what’s achievable,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol.
“This has been going on for two months. We re-engaged in July. The Speaker never made a reasonable offer,” McConnell said on Fox News later. “They didn’t want to get a deal this soon.”
The talks ended with a public difference of several hundred billion dollars but possibly more unresolvable disagreements over policy. House Democrats forced a $2.2 trillion bill through the chamber last week as their latest offer while Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had said the administration was offering a deal worth “in the neighborhood” between $1.5 trillion and $2.2 trillion. (The House in May had passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act pandemic relief bill , but McConnell failed to acknowledge it in the Senate.)
Whether a deal of the magnitude referenced by Mnuchin could have made it through McConnell’s Senate, though, was always unclear.
Liam Donovan, principal with Bracewell LLP’s Policy Resolution Group, said the White House’s lack of focus helped sink the talks.