WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As many Americans continue to struggle amid the economic downturn linked to the coronavirus pandemic, it looks like they will have to wait until after the election to get any more help from the federal government.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday tweeted that negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin should stop until after the vote. While Trump wasn’t directly involved in those negotiations, Mnuchin works for him and the president would have to sign a relief package into law.
“(That’s) not the way to run a country,” Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., said. “Just when folks were starting to say we were close, President Trump decided to withdraw and I think that’s unacceptable.”
But Republicans, who control the Senate, say Democrats have only themselves to blame.
“There’s a lot of political gamesmanship going on from our friends on the other side who wanted to do so many things in this bill that have nothing to do with the emergency,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said.
He said Republicans tried to compromise, but Democrats were unwilling to lower their price tag enough. Democrats did drop their plan from about $3 trillion to $2.2 trillion, but that was still too high for the GOP.
“Democrats have continued to set their number at place they knew we couldn’t go,” Blunt said.
He said he supports Trump’s call to pass standalone direct payment bills to get some relief out the door, but Democrats have indicated they’re not inclined to a piecemeal response.
“We have to act,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said. “(Republicans have) wrong priorities, from my perspective. We should be focused on helping people, helping small businesses.”
That priority is Republicans’ plan to quickly confirm Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Despite a COVID-19 outbreak that has infected three Republican senators, Blunt said the process remains on track.
“I believe in all certainty we will confirm Judge Barrett and make her Justice Barrett this year,” he said. “I think in all likelihood, we’ll get that done in the month of October.”