- 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)
Campaign Season Gets Rolling This Month With Primaries in 13 States
Several of the contests taking place this month will serve as important tests for Trump-backed candidates and how much power the former president still has over the GOP.
May Primaries Start With Key Race in Ohio
The 2022 midterm season is officially heating up this month with 13 states heading to the polls.
Voters in Indiana and Ohio will kick off the busy month on Tuesday with several highly anticipated races, including one closely watched contest for the seat being vacated by long-time Senator Rob Portman (R-Oh.)
The fight for Portman’s seat has been a heated one: candidates have spent tens of millions of dollars, held numerous debates and forums, and at one point, two of them even got into a physical confrontation.
The main reason there are so many eyes on this race is because it will prove to be a key test for former President Donald Trump and the influence he has over the party. While Portman has generally been moderate and, at times, more readily critical of Trump than many others in his party, the Republican primary campaign has basically been a fight to see who is the most in line with Trump.
According to FiveThirtyEight, all but one of the seven Republican senate candidates embraced the former president’s election fraud lies as they fought for his coveted endorsement in a state he won by eight points in both 2016 and 2020.
Trump, for his part, ultimately ended up endorsing Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance in a move that surprised many, because Vance had previously been vocally opposed to the former leader and his competitors had spent months running ads noting that fact.
However, the fight for Trump’s backing appears to have been worth it. Last week, a Fox News poll found that support for Vance has surged by double-digits since Trump’s endorsement, making him the front-runner.
Still, as FiveThirtyEight reports, “other factions of the party haven’t given up the fight either — which means the primary will be a direct test of how much clout Trump has when other Republican elites dare to defy him.”
Meanwhile, there are also concerns regarding the ongoing legal battle over Ohio’s congressional map and the confusion that has caused for the state’s election calendar. For weeks, it was widely believed the state’s primaries would be pushed back after the Ohio Supreme Court ordered GOP lawmakers to redraw their map.
The map had been gerrymandered to give Republicans 12 out of the 15 congressional seats in the state even though they had only won around 55% of the popular vote. Ohio voters also previously passed a constitutional amendment in 2018 that effectively banned partisan gerrymandering.
The election, however, is still going forward anyway, even as early voting was down a whopping 40% from the last election, and the legislative races will not be on the ballot Tuesday, meaning there will have to be a second primary, which will likely drive down turnout even more.
Other Major Races This Month
There are also other notable contests scheduled for later this month. On May 17, there will be two additional races for seats vacated by Republican senators in North Carolina and Pennsylvania that will serve as important indicators of the former president’s sway over the party.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, the main Trump test focuses on two statewide races for the positions currently held by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R). The two infamously angered Trump after they refused to help him overturn the election, and as a result, many are watching to see if the former president’s full-fledged pressure campaign against them will work.
In Georgia and other battlegrounds voting this month, Democrats are also hoping they can make inroads — particularly in Pennsylvania. But recent polls have not painted a good picture for the party. Last week, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 47% of voters said they were more likely to vote for the Republican in their district, while just 44% said they would back Democrats.
The poll marked the first time in eight years that a Marist survey found the GOP with an advantage for congressional ballot tests.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (FiveThirtyEight) (PennLive)
New York’s Highest Court Strikes Down Democrat-Gerrymandered Map
The move represents a major blow to Democrats, who stood to gain as many as three seats in Congress if their map had been accepted.
Appeals Court Ruling
The New York State Court of Appeals struck down a congressional map drawn by the state’s Democrats Wednesday, dealing the party a major blow.
In the decision, the state’s highest court agreed with Republicans who had argued that the map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Democrats. The justices called the map “substantively unconstitutional as drawn with impermissible partisan purpose.”
The court also condemned the Democrats for ignoring a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2014 that aimed to limit political influence in redistricting, which included the creation of an independent entity to draw maps that the legislature would then vote on. However, the commission created to prevent partisan gerrymandering was unable to decide on a map because of its own partisan stalemate. As a result, Democrats in the legislature took it upon themselves to draw a final map.
But the version that the legislature passed and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed into law re-drew lines so that Democrats could have gained as many as three new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Such gains would be highly significant in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, where Republicans are expected to make substantial gains and may very well take back the House. Unsurprisingly, Republicans sued, and a lower court struck down the map.
In their order, the Appeals Court justices took away the legislature’s ability to make the map and instead delegated that power to a court-appointed “neutral expert.”
While the judges did say there was enough time to finish the map before the primary elections in June, they also added that the Congressional contests would likely need to be moved to August. Races for governor and other statewide officials, however, would stay the same.
The Appeals Court ruling is unique in that it targets Democrats, but it also comes as part of the broader trend of state courts cracking down on gerrymandering — though most other instances have stemmed from GOP-drawn maps.
In just the first four months of 2022, state courts in Ohio, North Carolina, Kansas, and Maryland have all struck down redistricting plans crafted by lawmakers.
Unlike the New York ruling, some of those other courts have implied that they will still allow those maps to be used in the 2022 elections. Such a decision would very likely disadvantage Democrats even more.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
McCarthy Warned Far-Right Lawmakers Could Incite Violence After Jan. 6 in New Audio of Leaked Call
The conversations represent a marked difference from the public efforts of McCarthy and other Republican leaders to downplay their members‘ actions.
Four days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) expressed concern about far-right Republicans inciting violence and openly voiced support for censoring them on Twitter, according to audio published by The New York Times on Tuesday.
The recordings, which come from a call among party leaders and aides on Jan. 10, are by far the clearest evidence top Republicans acknowledged that their members played a role in stoking violence before the insurrection and threatened to do so after.
They also emphasize the vast difference between what top Republicans, especially McCarthy, said behind closed doors, and how they downplayed and ignored the actions of their members in public.
One of the most notable elements of these recordings is that McCarthy and the others explicitly identified several individuals by name. They focused mainly on Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) and Mo Brooks (R-Al.) as the primary offenders.
In the audio, McCarthy can be heard flagging Gaetz right off the bat.
“Tension is too high. The country is too crazy,” he added. “I do not want to look back and think we caused something or we missed something and someone got hurt. I don’t want to play politics with any of that.”
Specifically, McCarthy and the others talked about how Gaetz had gone on TV to attack multiple Republicans for being unsupportive of former President Donald Trump after Jan. 6. They particularly expressed concern over his targeting of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), who was a member of the leadership team and had already been facing threats.
Others on the call also noted that Brooks had spoken at the rally before the insurrection, where he made incendiary remarks that many have viewed as direct calls to violence. McCarthy said the public comments from his members “have to stop,” adding he would call Gaetz and have others do the same to tell him that this “is serious shit” and “to cut this out.”
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the second-ranking House Republican, asserted at one point that Gaetz’s actions were “potentially illegal.”
“Well, he’s putting people in jeopardy, and he doesn’t need to be doing this,” McCarthy responded. “We saw what people would do in the Capitol, you know, and these people came prepared with rope, with everything else.”
Republicans on the call also mentioned incendiary remarks from other members, including Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx.), Barry Moore (R-Al.), and Lauren Boebert (R-Co.). Cheney pointed to Boebert as a security risk, noting she had tweeted out incredibly sensitive information about the movements of top leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) during the attack on the Capitol.
“Our members have got to start paying attention to what they say, too, and you can’t put up with that shit,” McCarthy added later. “Can’t they take their Twitter accounts away, too?”
McCarthy in Hot Water
The newly published recordings also come just days after The Times reported that McCarthy had told members on a call after the insurrection that he would urge Trump to resign.
McCarthy initially called the reporting “totally false and wrong,” but shortly after his denial, The Times received permission from their source to publish audio where he can be heard saying precisely that.
McCarthy, for his part, has tried to spin the situation, claiming that his remarks were still true because he never actually followed through on the plan to call Trump.
Still, the situation prompted widespread backlash from the far-right faction of the Republican party.
Multiple people expressed hesitancy about their support for McCarthy as Speaker of the House if Republicans take control of the chamber in the midterm elections. Some said they could not trust him.
Speaking on his show Tuesday, Foxs News host Tucker Carlson called McCarthy “a puppet of the Democratic Party.”
Gaetz also responded with ire, tweeting out a statement in which he referred to the call as “sniveling” and said of McCarthy and Scalise: “This is the behavior of weak men, not leaders.”
Other members mentioned in the call, however, appeared to brush it off. In a statement to Axios, Moore claimed that the story was engineered by “RINOS” (Republicans in Name Only), and that “Republicans will be more united than ever after taking back the House this November.”
It currently remains unclear whether these revelations with pose any long-term threat to McCarthy, but if Trump is any indication of the far-right party line, the House leader may be in the clear.
After The Times published the audio of McCarthy saying Trump should resign, the former president told The Wall Street Journal that the relationship between the two men was untroubled.
“I think it’s all a big compliment, frankly,” he added. “They realized they were wrong and supported me.”