Trump again upends stimulus strategy, complaining that Mnuchin hasn’t ‘come home with the bacon’

Source: By Erica Werner and Jeff Stein, Washington Post • Posted: Thursday, October 15, 2020

McConnell, meanwhile, rejects the president’s call to ‘go big or go home’ as he prepares to try to advance slimmed-down bill

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during a television interview at the White House on Oct. 14.

President Trump called Thursday for even more stimulus spending than the $1.8 trillion that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin proposed in his talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, injecting yet more chaos into the unruly negotiations as the election nears.

“I would take more. I would go higher,” Trump said in an interview on Fox Business Network, repeating his directive from earlier in the week to “go big or go home!!!

Trump said he has communicated his views to Mnuchin.

“I’ve told him. So far, he hasn’t come home with the bacon,” the president said.

Trump’s latest comments illustrate the fluid and disorganized state of affairs in the stimulus talks at a time when the economic recovery appears to be stalling less than three weeks from the election. The upshot of all the discordant views is that it appears very unlikely a deal will be reached before the November elections, if at all.

Mnuchin and Pelosi (D-Cailf.) have negotiated for days even though Trump keeps changing what he is willing to offer, often in Twitter posts or media interviews. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, is distancing himself and Republican senators from the White House’s rapidly growing spending package and attempting to advance a smaller-scale $500 billion plan next week.

“I’m proposing what we think is appropriate,” McConnell told reporters in Kentucky on Thursday when asked about Trump’s “Go big” insistence. “I’m putting on the floor what we think is appropriate to tackle this disease at this point.”

As for the higher numbers entertained by the administration, McConnell said: “That’s where the administration’s willing to go. My members think what we laid out, a half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go.”

Trump seemed unaware of or indifferent to the GOP objections to big new spending.

“The Republicans are very willing to do it,” Trump said, insisting that Pelosi is standing in the way and “she’s got a lot of mental problems.”

“Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to give anything. She thinks it helps her with the election. … We’re not holding it up. She’s holding it up,” Trump said.

Trump added that Pelosi is “asking for all sorts of goodies — she wants to bail out badly run Democrat states and cities. … She wants money for things you could — your pride couldn’t let it happen.”

Pelosi criticized the administration’s approach, saying it doesn’t recognize real needs, including state and local governments that have had tax revenue plummet and faced the prospect of mass layoffs, with hundreds of thousands of workers already losing their jobs.

“This is about a pandemic, in case you haven’t noticed. This is about a pandemic where we are trying to compensate the states for the money that they spent on the pandemic and the revenue that they lost,” Pelosi said Wednesday night on MSNBC. “That’s one thing that the president, they’ve all just ignored. The president said, ‘I’m not paying blue states,’ all that stuff. They haven’t taken this seriously.”

Amid the dissonant messages, Mnuchin appeared to be moving in Pelosi’s direction in their ongoing talks. He said Thursday that the administration was basically prepared to accept language Pelosi has insisted on to establish a national coronavirus testing strategy.

“When I speak to Pelosi today, I’m going to tell her that we’re not going to let the testing issue stand in the way. That we’ll fundamentally agree with their testing language, subject to minor issues,” Mnuchin said on CNBC. “This issue is being overblown.”

It was not immediately clear, however, what, if anything, was being agreed to. Mnuchin and Pelosi had yet to speak, and a Pelosi spokesman said they had not yet heard specifics from the Treasury secretary about what he was agreeing to.

After a huge wave of layoffs in March and April, there has been a noticeable increase in the past few weeks as well following the expiration of a number of federal aid programs. The airline and travel industry has been particularly hard hit, while restaurants and other businesses continue to close nationwide.

Congress passed about $3 trillion in emergency aid in March and April, but a number of those programs have run their course.

The White House and Democrats have agreed on several measures to include in a new stimulus plan, including a desire to send another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, more small business aid and help for the airline industry. They also have sought to extend emergency unemployment insurance, although there have been differences on how to structure such assistance. And a number of other issues remain unresolved, such as corporate liability protections Democrats oppose, money for cities and states, and child care.

Defending his call for higher spending, Trump repeatedly asserted without evidence or explanation that China would pay for the nearly $2 trillion stimulus package. “I’d like to see more money — because it comes back,” he said. “We’re going to take it from China. I’ll tell you right now: It’s coming out of China.”

The president has repeatedly made false claims about foreign nations paying for domestic spending projects, for instance claiming that Mexico would fund construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border.

Asked how he would get China to pay for the stimulus package, Trump asserted: “Well, there’s lots of ways. Okay? There’s a lot of ways. And I’ll figure all of them out. I already have them figured out.”

The talks continued amid a rise in coronavirus cases across the United States and a downturn on Wall Street.

More than 20 states hit new highs in their seven-day case average, while 40 states have seen week-to-week increases in infections. The Dow Jones industrial average fell sharply Thursday morning before recovering some of its losses.