Trump’s call for ‘higher numbers’ for fiscal stimulus meets with mixed reactions from Senate GOP
Senate Republicans, in a show of unity, voted last week for another coronavirus financial-aid bill almost half as expensive as the White House had been proposing and about one-fourth the cost of what House Democrats want.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said Republicans needed to go higher.
In a mid-morning tweet, Trump said Democrats were heartless and didn’t want to see Americans get another round of fiscal stimulus payments by demanding too much in COVID-19 aid talks.
“Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!).” Trump tweeted.
But after weeks of saying Democrats were wanting too much with their $2.2 trillion offer, and being unable to coalesce around the administration’s $1.3 trillion counteroffer, as well as voting for a reportedly $650 billion bill last week, some Senate Republicans were not inclined to take Trump’s advice on Wednesday.
“So the president has his opinion, we have ours,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican who has been among the most adamant in his party about not spending much more money on relief.
He said Republicans had done the right thing in voting for the narrower bill last week, which was blocked from advancing by Senate Democrats, and claimed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was not serious about negotiating.
“We offered them a half-trillion dollars package — real targeted relief for people that really needed it, the unemployed, small-business education, vaccines, testing, all these things, and she won’t take ‘yes’ for an answer. That tells you she’s not serious about really doing a deal,” he said.
“Why didn’t he just endorse the Problem Solvers bill?” asked Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, when asked about Trump’s tweet. A bipartisan group of 50 House lawmakers — 25 from each party — unveiled a $1.5 trillion plan on Tuesday that Pelosi dismissed as inadequately funded.
Sen. Mike Braun, a Republican from Indiana, said Trump would need to convince his fellow Republicans, all but one of whom voted for the smaller package last week.
And if the bigger number ended up close to $1 trillion, it would be a difficult sale, he said.
“I don’t think you’d get hardly any Republicans. And you’d lose a bunch of fiscal conservatives, if you did anything other than what we voted on for last week,” he said.
Not all the reaction was negative. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican up for reelection this year, said he agreed with Trump on the need to go big and was in “the camp of trying to get something done.”
“Seems to me that we shouldn’t leave this issue unattended, that we should all make this a national priority. People are going to start getting kicked out of their apartments and houses foreclosed on, because there are some people just can’t get back to work, our economy is still shut down in certain areas,” he said.
At a White House press briefing. spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said Trump meant Republicans should add a second round of direct payments to the bill Senate Republicans voted for last week.
Across the party aisle, Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer pounced on the Trump tweet, issuing a joint statement saying they were “encouraged” by it but refusing to cut the size of their offer.
“We look forward to hearing from the president’s negotiators that they will finally meet us halfway with a bill that is equal to the massive health and economic crises gripping our nation,” the pair wrote.
Late in the day, a spokesman for Pelosi said she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke by phone about a stopgap spending bill, and she reiterated the points in the joint statement to him.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy sounded skeptical that the tweet would change much for Republicans. Asked if Republicans could go as high as $1.5 trillion, McCarthy said, “We’d have to see what’s in it, but I think it’s difficult,” he said.
Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat, said he was encouraged by Trump’s tweet. “He’s right on that. This is money for Americans who are struggling who need money. It’s not giving it away to somebody else,” he said.
The tweet came as many Republicans felt Pelosi was under growing pressure from party moderates and members in tough races to reach a deal.
Asked about that Wednesday morning in an interview in MSNBC, Pelosi said, “Welcome to my world.”