After suddenly calling off stimulus-bill negotiations earlier this week — and then suggesting that the possibility of consensus remained on smaller, standalone relief bills — President Trump has now reversed his position completely, reopening the door for a stimulus check 2 deal with Democrats.
The Hill reports that in an interview with Fox Business on Thursday morning (Oct. 8), Trump said stimulus-bill talks were "starting to work out." These comments came less than 48 hours after the president tweeted that he had told administration officials to cut off stimulus-bill negotiations until after Election Day.
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After his tweets sent the stock market into a tailspin, Trump followed up with a pledge late Tuesday (Oct. 6) to provide $1,200 stimulus checks "immediately" in a standalone bill.
On Wednesday (Oct. 7), White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said they were working on bills that broke out aspects of the comprehensive stimulus package into smaller pieces, including one that bailed out the suffering airline industry.
However, Trump's most recent comments suggest that a big stimulus package is back in play, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) confirmed later Thursday.
"We're at the table. We want to continue the conversation. We've made some progress. We're exchanging language. So we'll see how we connect," Pelosi told reporters.
She also noted that there "ain't gonna be no stand-alone bill unless there's a bigger bill," shutting down the president's suggestion to provide piecemeal relief.
Politico reported that Pelosi and Mnuchin had continued to talk despite Trump's order to cut off negotiations, and that the two had discussed a comprehensive stimulus bill Wednesday evening.
Where does each side stand?
The back-and-forth has left a lot of Republican lawmakers anxious, especially with the election less than 30 days away.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), who is facing a tough challenge in November, is pushing the White House and Congress to consider the House's bipartisan $1.5 trillion Problem Solvers bill. On top of that, a number of House Republicans have expressed disapproval at the president's handling of stimulus relief.
Meanwhile, Pelosi and Mnuchin are stuck at $2.2 trillion and $1.6 trillion, respectively. The House passed a revised HEROES Act last week — it's been pared down from its original $3.4 trillion — but the two sides have been unable to bridge the $600 billion gap. Both agree that any proposal should include $1,200 direct payments for some Americans.
All paths lead through the Senate
But for anything to move forward, the GOP-controlled Senate has to be on board, and that might be tough going.
Senators haven't considered any stimulus legislation since their $500 billion "skinny" bill failed to advance last month. The $1.1 trillion HEALS Act the Republican leadership presented in July has never been put to a vote, and it's still not clear whether a majority of GOP senators would back it.
Politico said today that at least four prominent Republican senators were either opposed to or leaning against an airline bailout in any form. If the Senate passes a comprehensive stimulus bill, the bulk of the votes may have to come from the Democratic minority in the chamber, an outcome that the Republican leadership would rather avoid.
The Senate won't be back in session until Oct. 19, at which point lawmakers plan to focus on Supreme Court nomination hearings. The House has already proposed and approved several stimulus bills — and as CNBC points out, the ball is now in the Senate's court.