President Donald Trump called on Congress to pass a coronavirus relief bill on Saturday in his first stimulus remarks since losing the election to Joe Biden.
"Congress must now do a Covid Relief Bill," he wrote on Twitter. "Needs Democrats support. Make it big and focused. Get it done!"
—Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 14, 2020
Trump's remarks are the first on the subject since Biden won the presidential election. Before November 3, the president constantly called for another stimulus package. At times, Trump suggested he could support a larger plan than the $2.4 trillion in further spending that Democrats wanted.
The White House was negotiating with Democrats on a relief plan but talks collapsed in the run-up to the election. They haven't restarted, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is taking the lead on another stimulus bill among Republicans while the White House takes a backseat.
The trajectory of a fifth government rescue package has been fraught with obstacles over the past few months. Trump's comments were unlikely to break the stalemate on Capitol Hill, even with daily coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surging to new highs in recent days. Both parties are pushing for dueling priorities, particularly on the cost of another relief plan.
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The GOP is pressing for a far smaller relief package similar to the $500 billion measure they unveiled in September and October. Democrats blocked it both times. It contained small business aid and public health funds, but it omitted stimulus checks and money for cities.
McConnell has argued in recent weeks the improving economy doesn't need a significant level of assistance, citing the falling unemployment rate and the growing budget deficit. "I don't think the current situation demands a multitrillion-dollar package," the Kentucky Republican said Tuesday.
It appears another relief package won't be passed until after Biden takes office in January, and Americans may wait several months for the arrival of more federal aid. The president-elect has been in contact with Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi on the matter.
Democrats have called for a large aid plan that includes new federal unemployment benefits, a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks, aid to state and local governments as well as health funding among other initiatives.
"One of the urgent things that need to be done is people need relief right now — right now: small businesses, people who are about to be evicted from their homes because they can't pay their mortgage, unemployment insurance," Biden said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Many economists and Federal Reserve officials are prodding Congress to pass a new relief bill as the recovery shows signs of slowing down. With virus cases spiking, some states are again enacting restrictions and ordering business closures to curb the pathogen's rapid spread, which could impede the shaky recovery.
"The main risk we see to that is clearly the further spread of disease here in the United States," Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said on Thursday. "We've got new cases at a record level, we've seen a number of states begin to reimpose limited activity restrictions, and people may lose confidence that it is safe to go out."
Democrats are pinning their hopes on winning two runoff races in Georgia in early January to regain a threadbare Senate majority, leaving Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to cast tie-breaking votes. Under that scenario, they could use the reconciliation process to pass a large coronavirus relief bill with a simple majority.