The Trump administration on Friday made a $1.8 trillion stimulus offer to Democrats on Friday, the largest one yet in fluid negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But she rebuffed it by saying it didn't provide a fuller strategy for COVID-19 testing and tracing.
The White House is renewing an aggressive push to pass a government rescue package before the election, only three days after the president ended the talks and sparked criticism from some Republicans — a stark reversal in a turbulent stretch of on-again, off-again talks.
Democrats, however, did not appear eager to accept the administration's offer, which was an increase from $1.6 trillion they rejected as too paltry.
"Of special concern, is the absence of an agreement on a strategic plan to crush the virus," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill wrote on Twitter after Pelosi spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday.
He went on: "For this and other provisions, we are still awaiting language from the administration as negotiations on the overall funding amount continue."
Trump favors a broad economic aid package. He suggested during a radio interview earlier on Friday he could support a stimulus plan bigger than the $2.2 trillion amount Democrats are seeking. He also wrote on Twitter that the aid package should "Go Big".
—Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2020
The package contains numerous measures to provide more government assistance to individuals and businesses, per The Washington Post, citing two people familiar with the plan.
The plan repurposed nearly $400 billion in unspent relief funds from the spring to offset part of the price tag, bringing overall new spending to $1.5 trillion.
Some of the provisions include:
- $1,200 direct payments to adults plus $1,000 for each dependent child.
- $400 weekly federal unemployment benefits (end date unclear).
- $300 billion in aid to state and local governments.
- $75 billion for coronavirus testing and tracing.
The proposal increases the amount of aid to states by $50 billion. The stimulus check provision also bumps the amount for children to $1,000 instead of the $500 provided under the CARES Act in March.
The offer caps a volatile week in stimulus negotiations. Talks between Mnuchin and Pelosi veered in recent days from considering a standalone rescue bill for airlines to cutting a deal on a big government rescue package.
But Trump's demands for a larger package collide with the economic disposition of many Republicans. Many GOP senators opposed a $1 trillion spending plan that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans introduced earlier this summer, citing concern over the growing federal debt.
There was similar GOP opposition to a "skinny" stimulus plan, which Democrats ultimately blocked last month.
"I've got a significant percentage of my members who think we've done enough and who are alarmed by the amount of national debt," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said at a campaign event in Kentucky on Thursday. He was cool on the prospect of passing a stimulus package before the election on Friday, given the ongoing Supreme Court nomination process of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Meanwhile, Pelosi said on MSNBC that Trump's about-face was prompted by stocks sliding earlier in the week.
"He got a terrible backlash from it, including in the stock market, which is what he cares about," she said. "And so then he started to come back little by little, and now a bigger package."
Experts say sectors of the economy are slowing down. Nearly a dozen major companies are moving ahead with at least 75,000 layoffs if the federal government doesn't provide further relief. Unemployment claims have regularly topped 800,000 for almost every week since early August, far above pre-pandemic levels.
In addition, the latest jobs report showed the economy regained 661,000 jobs, a sharp drop compared to the past three months. The US still hasn't recovered half the jobs it lost in March and April.
Lawmakers authorized nearly $3 trillion in federal spending as the pandemic crashed into the economy, causing a colossal amount of job losses and small business failures.
Many economists across the political spectrum are urging Congress to approve more government spending to battle the pandemic and keep individuals and businesses afloat.
"I'm always concerned about the level of debt, but on this one, I'll say we're at war with this virus," Bill Hoagland, a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center and former Republican staff director for the Senate Budget Committee, told Business Insider. "With low interest rates, you fight this with all the resources you have."
A new analysis released Friday from the Brookings Institution indicated a $2 trillion stimulus package would restore the nation's economic activity to pre-pandemic levels by the middle of next year.