Trump Orders Stimulus Package Negotiations to Stop Until After Election
- In a series of tweets Tuesday, President Trump said he is halting all negotiations on the coronavirus stimulus package until after the election, adding, “immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill.”
- He also said he instructed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to focus on approving his Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.
- The move prompted outrage from many Democrats who argued that Trump was acting in his own self-interest, not America’s, by holding the stimulus package hostage and bribing people to vote for him.
- Some Republicans also condemned the move, but others defended it, saying Democrats had only provided unworkable proposals and refused to negotiate.
- Hours later, Trump appeared to backtrack and urged Congress to immediately approve another round of stimulus checks as well as billions of dollars for both airline payroll support and the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses.
Trump Ends Stimulus Talks
President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he was ending all negotiations on another coronavirus relief stimulus package until after the election.
Trump declared the decision in a series of tweets where he accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) of “not negotiating in good faith” and said he was rejecting her requests.
“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” he wrote.
The president went on to say that he asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell instead to “focus full time on approving my outstanding nominee to the United States Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett.”
“Our Economy is doing very well,” he added. “The Stock Market is at record levels, JOBS and unemployment also coming back in record numbers. We are leading the World in Economic Recovery, and THE BEST IS YET TO COME!”
Following that announcement, many people took to Twitter to condemn the president, arguing he was holding the stimulus package hostage and that he was essentially bribing Americans to vote for him.
Many politicians also echoed the claim that Trump was simply doing this to benefit himself, including Pelosi, who has been one of the main politicians leading the stimulus negotiations.
“Today, once again, President Trump showed his true colors: putting himself first at the expense of the country, with the full complicity of the GOP Members of Congress,” she said in a statement. “He refuses to put money in workers’ pockets, unless his name is printed on the check.”
Democratic nominee Joe Biden also hit on similar points in a statement on his campaign page.
“Make no mistake: if you are out of work, if your business is closed, if your child’s school is shut down, if you are seeing layoffs in your community, Donald Trump decided today that none of that — none of it — matters to him,” the former vice president said before going on to condemn Trump for ending the negotiations so the Senate could focus on jamming through his Supreme Court nominee.
The president telling the Senate to focus on the controversial near-election nomination rather than providing Americans with much-needed assistance also sparked anger among many.
“In the middle of the worst pandemic in a century, Trump won’t help people get the relief they need – but he will ram through an illegitimate Supreme Court nominee to rip away Americans’ health care,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.) tweeted. “So much for the art of the deal. This is despicable.”
Questionable Strategy and Republican Response
Politics divisions aside, many people also wondered what strategic purpose Trump’s announcement served, and why the president would see any benefit in refusing to give American’s economic support less than a month before the election.
“Wait, so Trump not only rejects stimulus funds that would probably have helped his re-election chances, but *also* does so in a way to make sure that he personally will take blame for it?” pollster and FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver said in a tweet.
“The timing of Trump’s sudden move perplexed Republicans since there was little downside politically to allowing the talks to continue to play out,” CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju tweeted. “Now, they fear, that Trump’s decision will make it easier for Democrats to pit the blame squarely on the WH.”
To that point, a small handful of Republicans have spoken out against Trump for ending negotiations. In a statement, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) called the move “a huge mistake.” Rep. John Katko (R-Ny.) also explicitly tweeted that he disagreed with the president.
“With lives at stake, we cannot afford to stop negotiations on a relief package,” he continued. “The Problem Solvers Caucus has a proposal that both sides agreed on and can bring negotiators back to the table. I strongly urge the President to rethink this move.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Sc.), a staunch ally of the president, also chimed in. While he did not directly criticize Trump, he did reiterate Katko’s remarks encouraging his Republican colleagues and the president to look at that same bipartisan package.
“Time to come together to help America deal with COVID as we move toward a vaccine,” he added.
Of course, on the other side, there were also plenty of Republicans who defended the move, including key leaders, like McConnell, who said he agreed with Trump’s decision when asked by reporters Tuesday.
“I think his view was that they were not going to produce a result and we needed to concentrate on what’s achievable,” he added.
Other Republicans also echoed Trump’s remarks, arguing that Pelosi’s deal was unworkable.
“Just look at Pelosi’s last offer to see how unserious she is,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said in a tweet, calling the proposal “a leftist wish list.”
Trump Reverses Course
However, following the backlash — as well as a significant stock market dip — Trump appeared to reverse course. Just hours after saying he was ending all stimulus talks, he called on Congress to pass key elements of the package.
“The House & Senate should IMMEDIATELY Approve 25 Billion Dollars for Airline Payroll Support, & 135 Billion Dollars for Paycheck Protection Program for Small Business,” he tweeted. “Both of these will be fully paid for with unused funds from the Cares Act. Have this money. I will sign now!”
“If I am sent a Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200), they will go out to our great people IMMEDIATELY,” he said in another tweet shortly after. “I am ready to sign right now. Are you listening, Nancy?”
Those late-night proclamations confused many. In an attempt to clear up the discourse, Wednesday morning, Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows went on Fox News. There, he explained that the negotiations on a stimulus package were indeed dead but also added that he and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin were in talks about smaller bills.
“The secretary and I have been talking about what we could do with stand-alone bills to help airlines, small businesses and the American people, with stimulus checks,” he said. “So, hopefully, we can convince Speaker Pelosi to do something on a stand-alone basis.”
However, while speaking to reporters, a spokesperson for Pelosi said that Mnuchin asked about a standalone airline bill in a call with the Speaker this morning. In that call, Pelosi reminded the secretary that Democrats had tried to push through an airline payroll bill on the House floor via unanimous consent last week, but Republicans blocked it.
As for the other measures Trump mentioned in his tweets, while Pelosi and Democrats have supported them, it seems unlikely that they will agree to this. In general, they have rejected piecemeal stimulus legislation in pieces because they believe smaller bills will not do enough to help the pandemic economy.
Regardless of the uncertain path forward, Trump’s push to pass certain parts of the package did seem to revive the stock market, which quickly rebounded Wednesday morning. However, the stock market’s optimism is not something that is shared by everyone.
In fact, just hours before Trump tweeted that he was ending negotiations and asserted that the economy was doing well, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell painted a grim picture of where the economy is headed in incredibly unusual remarks
In his comments, Powell urged Congress and the White House to approve more stimulus packages and warned hem that failure to do so could result in dire consequences.
“Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses,” he said. “Over time, household insolvencies and business bankruptcies would rise, harming the productive capacity of the economy and holding back wage growth. By contrast, the risks of overdoing it seem, for now, to be smaller.”
Despite that dire warning, Trump still claimed that the stimulus package was not needed because the economy was doing well, and the stock market and jobs were coming back at record levels.
But many experts — including some of Trump’s own advisors — have said the economy is not doing well and unless more money is injected into it, the economy is at risk of stalling or even backsliding.
Even beyond that, it is simply false that the stock market — which does not reflect the health of the economy — is at record levels. Similarly, regarding Trump’s job claims, while unemployment has gone down since its peak in April, it is still at 7.9%, and the country has recovered barely half of the jobs lost in March and April.
At the same time, many are worried that the job losses the country has seen are permanent and that given the predictions from experts about coronavirus spikes this fall and winter, Americans can expect more closures and slowdowns.
With the election edging nearer and nearer, Trump and his allies have firmly centered the economy as a key issue, now more than ever. The question now is will it come back to bite him?
According to a New York Times-Siena College poll from last month, 72% of voters supported a stimulus. That includes a majority of Republicans, but as for how Americans struggling in the pandemic economy will respond on Election Day, that is yet to be seen.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Politico) (The Washington Post)
Debt Limit Bill Passes the House — Here’s What You Need to Know
The salient features of the package include changes to food stamp eligibility, an end to the pause on student loan repayments, and a controversial pipeline, among other measures.
Congress Passes Debt Deal
With the clock ticking, the House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a package to raise the debt ceiling after weeks of negotiations.
At the very top level, the deal suspends the $31.4 trillion borrowing limit until Jan. 2025 in exchange for a range of spending cuts and caps. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the bill would cut federal spending by $1.5 trillion over the next decade.
One of the most talked about parts of the legislation is the measure that would end the multi-year freeze on student loan repayments and require borrowers to resume paying again in September.
The move will have a huge impact: 45 million Americans have student loans, totaling $1.6 trillion, making this the single biggest consumer debt Americans owe after mortgages.
Requiring people to repay their loans at a time when the economy is struggling and inflation continues to soar will put a dent in income for many folks. Joseph Brusuelas, the chief economist for consulting firm RSM US, told The Washington Post that households could see a $40 billion reduction in disposable income as a direct result of the policy.
Notably, the deal does not scrap President Joe Biden’s sweeping student loan forgiveness, as Republicans had proposed in an earlier draft. That matter is still playing out before the Supreme Court.
Changes to SNAP and TANF Benefits
Another major component that could hurt millions of Americans already struggling with high prices are the proposed cuts to food stamps — officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP.)
Specifically, the bill would expand the work requirements for SNAP eligibility. Under current eligibility rules, adults up to age 49 are required to either work or participate in a training program for a minimum of 80 hours a month with exceptions for people who are pregnant, live with children, or have certain disabilities.
The debt ceiling deal would raise the age of people who have to meet those work requirements to 54. That alone could risk hundreds of thousands of Americans losing their essential food assistance, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
Ty Jones Cox, vice president of food assistance at CBPP, explained to The Post that many older adults work part-time or seasonal jobs and thus may not reach the 80-hour-a-month requirement.
Despite the fact that the cuts to food stamps were one of the biggest Republican sticking points and one they have widely touted, the debt deal does include some major expansions to SNAP eligibility.
In addition to expanding work requirements, it also creates new exceptions for those requirements that will be extended to veterans, homeless Americans, and people 18 to 24 who were previously in foster care.
In a tweet, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge said the move represents the first time ever that people experiencing homelessness will not have to meet work requirements to qualify for SNAP.
As a result, the CBO estimates that the number of SNAP recipients would actually grow by 78,000 on average and increase spending by $2.1 billion.
In a similar vein, another part of the deal that could impact many Americans is a measure that would implement changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which is a program that provides temporary cash for families in need.
The legislation would overhaul a framework for state TANF programs that would effectively require states to expand work requirements. The actual effect will vary by state, but the CBO estimated that the move would slightly reduce the amount of money the federal government gives to states for the program.
An additional provision in this bill that has been getting a lot of attention — and a lot of backlash — would fast-track the building of a natural gas pipeline in West Virginia.
Completion of the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) — which would cut through federal forests and hundreds of dozens of waterways and wetlands — has been stalled by numerous court fights and environmental regulations.
Construction has gone millions of dollars over budget and violated many clean water laws. According to the environmental group Appalachian Voices, MVP has made more than 500 violations in two states.
The debt deal would speed up permitting for the project, make it basically impossible for environmental groups to bring legal challenges for government approvals, and shift jurisdiction away from regional courts that have continuously ruled against MVP.
The pipeline has been championed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), who has raked in three times more money from pipeline companies than any other member of Congress, according to Open Secrets.
Manchin’s vote will be essential to passing the debt deal in the narrowly divided Senate, and Biden promised him he would expedite the pipeline in exchange for his vote on the sweeping climate spending bill last year that the senator had single-handedly held up.
Other Notable Measures — and What Was Left Out
MVP is not the only provision in the legislation that has angered environmentalists. The deal would also streamline environmental permitting for huge energy projects, including ones on fossil fuels.
There are a number of other notable measures included in the package, including proposals to cut $20 billion in funding for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and claw back around $27 billion in COVID relief funds.
The bill would also mandate that significant expenditures be offset with pay-as-you-go spending reductions, as well as cap non-defense discretionary spending — a broad category that includes funding for education, national parks, and scientific research.
Also worth noting are the issues that were left out of the deal. Specifically, the package does not touch military spending or entitlements Republicans had floated cutting like Social Security and Medicare.
That is significant because those areas make up the country’s largest expenses by far — totaling nearly 80% of last year’s budget alone and costing $4.9 trillion.
Much of Biden’s domestic agenda was largely spared from the sweeping cuts and caps Republicans initially wanted. As a result, many experts have noted that the debt deal ultimately is not expected to bring down the U.S. deficit.
Deutsche Bank analysts estimated that the annual deficit reduction will only be “a few tenths of a percentage point.”
A Mixed Bag for McCarthy
Beyond having sweeping implications for America, this debt ceiling deal also has high political stakes — especially for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.).
The package was arguably the biggest test of his career as speaker, and while he did ultimately achieve his goal of passing a bill that cut spending and proved he could pass bipartisan legislation, it came at a cost.
The final version of this debt bill was significantly whittled down from the first one House Republicans passed as their starting point for negotiations, and he was only able to get it through the chamber with significant help from Democrats.
The entire deal nearly fell apart before it got to the House floor because far-right Republicans moved to block the measure from consideration in a major snub to McCarthy, forcing Democrats to swoop in.
Once the bill was finally put to a vote, it passed with more support from Democrats than Republicans. Democrats voted 165 in favor and 46 against, while 149 Republicans backed the measure and 71 opposed it.
That is still a solid 2-to-1 ratio of Republican support for McCarthy, but numerous members of the far-right wing of his party have threatened to oust him as speaker over the debt deal, including some who have specifically said they would do so if the bill passed with more support from Democrats than Republicans.
The debt deal now moves to the Senate, where both Democratic and Republican leadership have pushed for their members to fast-track the bill so it can get to Biden’s desk by Monday — the deadline to suspend the debt ceiling.
A couple of Senators on both sides are threatening to slow down the bill with amendments. While Republicans are calling for more spending cuts, Democrats want to remove the provision expediting the MVP pipeline.
However, because any amendments require a 60-vote threshold, these proposals are mostly symbolic. Especially because any changes would force the bill back to the House — and there is not enough time.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Axios)
Texas State Senate Sets Date for AG Ken Paxton’s Impeachment Trial
The House impeached Paxton on 20 articles, including bribery, abuse of public trust, and dereliction of duty.
The Texas State Senate on Monday adopted a resolution outlining how the impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) will play out in the upper chamber.
The proceedings, which will be over seen by the Lieutenant Governor, will start no later than Aug. 28. The move comes after the House voted to impeach Paxton on Saturday 121 to 23, with a majority of Republicans voting in favor. The historic vote marks just the third time a public official has been impeached in Texas’ nearly 200-year history. The most recent impeachment was nearly five decades ago.
The decision follows a tumultuous week for Texas Republicans and further highlights the growing rifts within the party.
The divisions first came to a head last Tuesday when Paxton called for Speaker of the House Dade Phelan (R) to step down after he presided over the floor while seemingly intoxicated. Mere hours later, the Republican-led General Investigating Committee announced that it had been investigating Paxton for months.
On Thursday, the committee unanimously recommended that Paxton be impeached and removed from office, prompting a full floor vote over the weekend.
Articles of Impeachment
In total, 20 articles of impeachment were brought against Paxton, including bribery, abuse of public trust, dereliction of duty, and more.
While there is a wide range of allegations, many first surfaced in Oct. 2020, when seven of Paxton’s top aides published a letter they had sent to the Attorney General’s director of human resources.
The letter accused Paxton of committing several crimes and asked the FBI to launch an investigation, which it did.
The staffers claimed that Paxton had abused his office to benefit Nate Paul, an Austin real estate developer and friend of Paxton’s who donated $25,000 to his 2018 campaign. Many of the impeachment articles concern Paxton’s alleged efforts to try and protect Paul from an FBI investigation he was facing in 2020.
Specifically, Paxton is accused of attempting to interfere in foreclosure lawsuits and issuing legal opinions that benefitted Paul, improperly obtaining undisclosed information to give him, and violating agency policies by appointing an outside attorney to investigate baseless claims and issue subpoenas to help the developer and his businesses.
In exchange, Paul allegedly helped Paxton by hiring a woman the Attorney General was having an affair with and paying for expensive renovations to Paxton’s home. According to the articles, that swap amounted to bribery.
Beyond Paxton’s relationship with Paul, many impeachment articles also concern how the top lawyer handled the 2020 letter.
In particular, Paxton is accused of violating Texas’ whistleblower law by firing four of the staffers who reported him in retaliation, misusing public funds to launch a sham investigation into the whistleblowers, and making false official statements in his response to the allegations.
The Attorney General also allegedly tried to conceal his wrongdoing by entering into a $3.3 million settlement with the fired staffers. The settlement is especially notable as House leaders have explicitly said they launched their probe into Paxton because he had asked the state legislature to approve taxpayer money to pay for that settlement.
Additionally, the impeachment articles outline several charges relating to a securities fraud case that Paxton was indicted for in 2015 but has not been charged in. The charges there include lying to state investigators and obstructing justice.
Paxton, for his part, has denied the allegations. On Saturday, the Attorney General issued a statement seeking to politicize the matter, claiming his impeachment was “illegal” and a “politically motivated scam.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press) (The New York Times)
Trump Lawyer Notes Indicate Former President May Have Obstructed Justice in Mar-a-Lago Documents Probe
The notes add to a series of recent reports that seem to paint a picture of possible obstruction.
Corcoran’s Notes on Mar-a-Lago
Prosecutors have 50 pages of notes from Donald Trump’s lawyer Evan Corcoran that show the former president was explicitly told he could not keep any more classified documents after he was subpoenaed for their return, according to a new report by The Guardian.
The notes, which were disclosed by three people familiar with the matter, present new evidence that indicates Trump obstructed justice in the investigation into classified documents he improperly kept at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
In June, Corcoran found around 40 classified documents in a storage room at Mar-a-Lago while complying with the initial subpoena. The attorney told the Justice Department that no additional documents were on the property.
In August, however, the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago and discovered about 100 more.
The Guardian’s report is significant because it adds a piece to the puzzle prosecutors are trying to put together: whether Trump obstructed justice when he failed to comply with the subpoena by refusing to return all the documents he had or even trying to hide them intentionally.
As the outlet noted, prosecutors have been “fixated” on Trump’s valet, Walt Nauta, since he told them that the former president directed him to move boxes out of the storage room before and after the subpoena. His actions were also captured on surveillance footage.
The sources familiar with Corcoran’s notes said the pages revealed that both Trump and the Nauta “had unusually detailed knowledge of the botched subpoena response, including where Corcoran intended to search and not search for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, as well as when Corcoran was actually doing his search.”
At one point, Corcoran allegedly noted how he had told the Nauta about the subpoena prior to his search for the documents because the lawyer needed him to unlock the storage room, showing how closely involved the valet was from the get-go.
Corcoran further stated that Nauta had even offered to help go through the boxes, but the attorney declined. Beyond that, the report also asserted that the notes “suggested to prosecutors that there were times when the storage room might have been left unattended while the search for classified documents was ongoing.”
Adding to the Evidence
If real, Corcoran’s notes are very damning, especially considering other recent reports concerning Trump’s possible efforts to obstruct the documents probe.
A few weeks ago, The New York Times reported that Corcoran had testified before a grand jury that multiple Trump employees told him the Mar-a-Lago storage room was the only place the documents were kept.
“Although Mr. Corcoran testified that Mr. Trump did not personally convey that false information, his testimony hardly absolved the former president,” the outlet reported, referencing people with knowledge of the matter.
“Mr. Corcoran also recounted to the grand jury how Mr. Trump did not tell his lawyers of any other locations where the documents were stored, which may have effectively misled the legal team.”
Additionally, the only reason that Corcoran handed over these notes was that he was under court order to do so. Corcoran had refused to turn the materials over, citing attorney-client privilege.
A federal judge rejected that claim on the grounds that there was reason to believe a lawyer’s advice or services were used to further a crime — meaning prosecutors believed they had enough evidence to prove Trump may have acted criminally.