Trump suggests he could back bigger relief bill

U.S. President Donald President Trump speaks after it was announced Bahrain has joined the United Arab Emirates in striking an agreement to normalize relations with Israel during a brief appearance in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 11, 2020.

Kevin Lemarque | Reuters

President Donald Trump urged Republicans to embrace a larger coronavirus stimulus package Wednesday as a top White House aide showed more optimism about striking a deal with Democrats. 

In a tweet, the president told GOP lawmakers to “go for the much higher numbers” in legislation designed to boost an economy and health-care system struggling under the weight of the pandemic. Many Republicans have embraced limited relief — or backed no new spending at all — as the major parties struggle to break a stalemate over a fifth relief bill. 

Shortly after Trump tweeted, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” he is “probably more optimistic about the potential for a deal in the last 72 hours than I have been in the last 72 days.” The comment from Meadows, one of the two leading Trump administration negotiators in stimulus talks, followed the Tuesday release of a roughly $1.5 trillion aid proposal by the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus. 

Democratic House committee chairs rejected the proposal Tuesday as party leaders call to inject at least $2.2 trillion into the coronavirus fight. Speaking to CNBC on Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., again opposed a more limited relief proposal.

Negotiations over more aid to Americans collapsed last month despite the expiration of financial lifelines including the extra $600 per week unemployment benefit and a federal moratorium on evictions. While the U.S. job market has recovered as states gradually ease public health restrictions, millions of people still feel sharp pain with a jobless rate hovering above 8%. 

Pressure on officials in Washington to act has increased as they hurtle toward reelection fights in November. Some House Democrats have increasingly pushed Pelosi to relent and pass a smaller relief package than the party initially desired. 

Meanwhile, Senate Republican leaders attempted to pass their own aid bill last week, both to put pressure on Democrats and ease the burden on vulnerable GOP senators. Democrats blocked the legislation, which they said was inadequate to address the crisis. 

Trump’s tweet Wednesday, in which he pushed for “stimulus payments,” also showed the political benefit he sees in sending more relief before the election. The bill that failed in the Senate last week did not include a second round of direct payments to Americans. 

Speaking to CNBC, Meadows did not outright support the bipartisan House bill. However, he called it a “serious thought for consideration.” 

“I think it at least provides a foundation for us to come back to the table,” he said. 

This story is developing. Please check back for updates. 

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