President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn’t think he could’ve done more to stop virus spread Conservative activist Lauren Witzke wins GOP Senate primary in Delaware Trump defends claim coronavirus will disappear, citing ‘herd mentality’ MORE on Wednesday shook up the high-stakes debate over coronavirus relief, undercutting the Republicans’ long-held position by urging GOP leaders to go big.
Senate Republicans had initially offered a $1.1 trillion package in emergency aid, but subsequently voted on a proposal providing just $650 billion — only $350 billion of it in new funding.
Democrats have howled at the GOP’s “emaciated” offer, arguing that it falls far short of the funding needed to address the dual crises of health and economy caused by the deadly coronavirus.
On Wednesday morning, Trump stunned Washington by joining those Democratic critics by calling for Republicans to seek much more funding than they’ve previously proposed.
“Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!),” Trump tweeted.
By the immediate reaction of Senate Republicans, it appeared that Trump did not tell his congressional allies that his change of position was forthcoming.
Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP ramps up attacks on Democrats over talk of nixing filibuster On The Money: Pelosi says House will stay in session until stimulus deal is reached | GOP short of votes on Trump’s controversial Fed pick | WTO rules Trump tariffs on Chinese goods illegal GOP short of votes on Trump’s controversial Fed pick MORE (R-S.D.), a member of GOP leadership, quickly warned that a stimulus package in the range of $1.5 trillion would likely lead to “heartburn” among Republicans on Capitol Hill. A group of centrist lawmakers from both parties offered such a proposal this week.
“If the number gets too high, anything that got passed in the Senate will be passed mostly with Democrat votes and a handful of Republicans,” Thune told reporters in the Capitol. “So it’s gonna have to stay in a, sort of, realistic range, if … we want to maximize, optimize the number of Republican senators that will vote for it.”
Minutes after Trump’s tweet, White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsCNBC’s Cramer calls Pelosi ‘crazy Nancy’ in live interview Pelosi digs in as pressure builds for COVID-19 deal Pelosi defends not speaking to Trump for almost a year MORE, a key negotiator, said he was more “optimistic” about a potential for a deal than he had been in quite some time.
“If the Speaker is willing to stay in, I’m willing to stay in, the Secretary [Mnuchin] is willing to stay in” and negotiate,” Meadows said during an appearance on CNBC.
Meadows, a former leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, characterized the $1.52 trillion relief plan proposed by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus a day earlier as a “thoughtful suggestion” and said it has moved the needle, even as allies of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi seeks to put pressure on GOP in COVID-19 relief battle On The Money: Pelosi says House will stay in session until stimulus deal is reached | GOP short of votes on Trump’s controversial Fed pick | WTO rules Trump tariffs on Chinese goods illegal Democratic lawmakers call for an investigation into allegations of medical neglect at Georgia ICE facility MORE (D-Calif.) had panned it as insufficient.
“It provides a foundation for us to come back to the table. … It’s not a show stopper,” said Meadows, who noted that he had been briefed on the Problem Solvers plan.
The president also took a shot at Democrats in his tweet, accusing them falsely of opposing a new round of stimulus checks for individual families.
“Democrats are ‘heartless’. They don’t want to give STIMULUS PAYMENTS to people who desperately need the money, and whose fault it was NOT that the plague came in from China,” he said.
The Democrats’ $3.4 trillion Heroes Act had included that provision, and party leaders continue to press for those payments in whatever deal might emerge in the coming weeks.