Trump reportedly nearly blew up delicate COVID-19 relief talks with demand for $2,000 direct checks

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Peter Weber
·2 min read
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"Congressional leaders are preparing the second-largest federal rescue package in our nation's history, and no one has seen it just days before it will get a vote," Politico reports. The emerging $900 billion legislation, based on a proposal from a bipartisan group of Senate moderates, is believed to contain $600 direct stimulus payments for many Americans, but "senators are walking around clueless, with no idea what to expect or when to expect it."

Meanwhile, President Trump, who hasn't been directly involved in the negotiations, was ready to step in Thursday with a demand for "substantially larger stimulus payments," The Washington Post reports, and he "was in the middle of formally drafting his demand for the larger payments when White House officials told him that doing so could imperil delicate negotiations over the economic relief package." Trump reportedly told allies Thursday afternoon he wants stimulus checks of "at least" $1,200 per person, but preferably as big as $2,000.

"The aides were really frantic, saying, 'We can't do this. It will blow up negotiations,'" one person who heard the exchange told the Post. Trump has previously publicly supported larger stimulus checks. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Trump's main negotiator on COVID-19 legislation, included Trump's name on an earlier round of $1,200 checks.

The $600 checks are in the legislation largely due to an intervention by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-V.t) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not include any such payments in his sparser proposals, and many Senate Republicans are insisting the legislation come in at under $1 trillion; stimulus checks larger than $600 would push the price tag above that mark. Democrats and the White House were in agreement on a package worth about $2 trillion before the election, but Senate Republicans balked.

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