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US President Donald Trump (AFP)
US President Donald Trump (AFP)

Donald Trump says he’d support a virus relief package in excess of $1.8 trillion

  • Investor disappointment over the continuing impasse has contributed to declines in the S&P 500 Index this week
  • Applications for US state unemployment benefits unexpectedly jumped last week to the highest since August

President Donald Trump said he’d support a virus relief package in excess of $1.8 trillion — his administration’s most recent negotiating proposal — and blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for delaying a deal.

“We’re not holding it up, she’s holding it up," Trump said in an interview Thursday on Fox Business. “She wants to wait until after the election. She thinks it hurts the Republicans."

Pelosi is scheduled to have another call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Thursday in a continuing saga of talks on a Covid-19 relief package. Democrats have sought a $2.2 trillion package, including a number of priorities that Republicans reject. Pelosi has accused the administration of not taking the impact of the coronavirus pandemic seriously.

“Absolutely I would" go over $1.8 trillion, Trump said Thursday, echoing his recent mantra “go big or go home."

However Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and other congressional Republicans have resisted any plan of much more than $1 trillion, and some GOP senators have questioned whether additional stimulus is needed. McConnell has been among those expressing skepticism about getting anything done before Election Day.

Investor disappointment over the continuing impasse has contributed to declines in the S&P 500 Index this week. The gauge was down 1% as of 10:53 a.m., heading for a third consecutive drop.

Mnuchin said earlier Thursday that Pelosi’s “all or nothing approach doesn’t make sense for the American people," though he and the administration are “not giving up" in the search for an agreement.

Trump indicated he’d be open to calling Pelosi on the stimulus but doubted it would result in a deal. The two haven’t spoken directly in about a year.

Trump, who canceled negotiations last week and only days later reversed course to advocate a bigger stimulus than congressional Republicans support, said that Pelosi has “a lot of mental health problems and it’s going to be very hard to do anything with her."

The president and speaker have each been questioning each other’s mental faculties. Pelosi said last week that Trump was “in an altered state right now," and she suggested to colleagues that his thinking might be affected by the steroids he was given as treatment for Covid-19.

Trump and Mnuchin both said they’d like to deploy left-over funds from the March stimulus act. McConnell has a vote planned next week on using such money to help small businesses, though Democrats have opposed a piecemeal approach to providing assistance.

Mnuchin said that there is $300 billion left from the Cares Act that is “sitting in the Treasury bank account right now, ready to go" if Congress could approve it for repurposing.

The Treasury chief also said, speaking on CNBC, that he wouldn’t let differences with Pelosi on a national coronavirus testing plan get in the way of a deal. The House speaker said Wednesday that she was hoping to get “better language back" on that issue Thursday.

Other roadblocks to a deal have included differences on tax credits for lower-income families and for real-estate and other businesses, along with the magnitude of support for state and local authorities.

Meantime, the economy continues to show evidence of the impact of a withdrawal of past fiscal stimulus -- just as anticipated by Federal Reserve policy makers and private economists alike.

Applications for US state unemployment benefits unexpectedly jumped last week to the highest since August, a report showed Thursday. Initial jobless claims in regular state programs totaled 898,000 in the week ended Oct. 10, exceeding all forecasts in a Bloomberg survey, Labor Department data showed Thursday.

Trump said Thursday that he did still think a stimulus deal is possible before Nov. 3 — “because I think there’s a lot of pressure on Pelosi."

Yet Trump’s own undermining of his negotiating team, by endorsing a bigger package than they have fought for -- and that Senate Republicans oppose -- has encouraged the Democrats to hold out.

“Pelosi suggests that she has the leverage in negotiations with Mnuchin since President Trump seems anxious for a big pre-election deal," said Sarah Binder, a political science professor at George Washington University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “The closer to the election a deal might be reached, the better for Democrats and the worse for Trump."


This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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