In a move criticised on both sides President Trump orders end to stimulus package negotiations and pushes for Supreme Court nominee approval.
It was late March when the first coronavirus stimulus package—officially known as The Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act—was signed into law in the United States by President Trump. The $2.2 trillion package saw most adult Americans qualify for a $1,200 stimulus cheque with Trump’s own name on it.
For many, this money dried up long ago and millions of Americans now face financial uncertainty, joblessness, and even eviction as the pandemic crisis worsens in America with over 210,000 Americans dead. Most have been eagerly awaiting a second stimulus package to be signed into law but talks between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been slow to resolve fundamental issues between the two parties.
In May, House Democrats passed a new HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act) stimulus package of $3.4 trillion but it stalled in the Senate, with both sides unable to come to an agreement.
At the beginning of October House Democrats passed another stimulus package worth £2.2 trillion, which would see another round of stimulus cheques mailed to aid in the growing financial issues facing millions of Americans. However, this package has also stalled in the Senate, with Mnuchin counteroffering a $1.6 trillion package instead, less than half of the original amount proposed by House Democrats in May.
On Tuesday, a mere 24 hours after being released from hospital, President Trump abruptly ordered Steven Mnuchin to end negotiations with Nancy Pelosi, effectively scrapping the latest attempt at a second coronavirus stimulus package. President Trump announced on Twitter his intention to pass a major stimulus bill after he wins the U.S. presidential election on November 3.
This announcement came as a surprise to many as on October 3 President Trump tweeted, “OUR GREAT USA WANTS & NEEDS STIMULUS. WORK TOGETHER AND GET IT DONE. Thank you!” which seemed to be urging for more cooperation between Mnuchin and Pelosi in getting a deal passed.
Hours before the announcement Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell warned that economic recovery was still fragile and that it needed urgent attention from policymakers. Powell stated that “too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses”.
Criticisms of Trump’s sudden decision have come from both sides of the political spectrum as the announcement saw the U.S. stock market fall just 24 hours after it saw it’s highest level in a month.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested on a Democratic conference call that the steroids the President is taking to battle his coronavirus infection could be affecting his judgement. Later, Pelosi issued a statement lambasting Trump and the GOP by saying, “Today, once again, President Trump showed his true colors: putting himself first at the expense of the country, with the full complicity of the GOP Members of Congress”. Later in the statement Pelosi writes that “Clearly, the White House is in complete disarray”.
New York Republican congressman Rep. John Katko said on Twitter, “I disagree with the President” and that he would “strongly urge the President to rethink this move”.
After announcing his orders via Twitter, President Trump also stated in the same thread that he has instructed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to instead focus all of his time on approving Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
After the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18, Republicans have been rushing to approve their third Supreme Court Justice nominee this term before the November 3 presidential election. This is in stark contrast to Mitch McConnell’s infamous protest in 2016 after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, claiming that the Obama Administration should not fill the vacancy until a new president is elected, a full nine months before the 2016 presidential election and likely a full year before the vacancy would be filled. However, now that a Republican President sits in the White House McConnell’s perspective on filling Supreme Court vacancies seems to have changed. The Senate, under direct orders from Donald Trump, will now work full time on approving Judge Amy Coney Barrett before the November 3 election, just 28 days away.
Trump ended his Twitter thread on Tuesday by claiming the stock market “is at record levels”, which is not true, and that jobs and unemployment are “coming back in record numbers” even though unemployment is still at 7.9 percent.
Some see the President using the stimulus package as an election bargaining chip in order to gain votes; others see an incumbent President losing in the polls focussing on stacking the Supreme Court with as many conservative justices as possible before a possible defeat. Either way it leaves millions of Americans still struggling to afford food, pay bills, and pay rent.