President Donald Trump’s advisors talked him out of calling for $2,000 stimulus checks in the next federal rescue package since it could derail the ongoing relief negotiations on Capitol Hill, The Washington Post reported.
The newspaper cited two sources familiar with the events.
The Post reported that Trump held a phone call with allies when he said he wanted stimulus payments to be “at least” $1,200 and perhaps as large as $2,000. Congressional leaders are currently drafting a $900 billion emergency relief package with $600 stimulus payments for Americans, half of the $1,200 amount distributed in March and April through an earlier pandemic aid package.
Trump was in the midst of outlining his desire when White House officials told him the move would capsize the negotiations between top Republicans and Democrats, which appear likely to slip into the weekend. Republicans are trying to keep the price tag of a relief package under $1 trillion, and larger direct payments could swell the legislation’s cost well beyond that.
An anonymous source told the Post that “aides were really frantic, saying: ‘We can’t do this; it will blow up negotiations.'”
Ben Williamson, a White House spokesman, told The Post that Trump supports large relief payments for struggling Americans.
“The President has heard from Americans all over the country who are hurting through no fault of their own, and he’s made clear he wants the next round of relief to include stimulus checks at a significant number,” he said. “We’re working with Congress to settle on an agreement that can pass as soon as possible.”
In the run-up to the election, Trump sought a large relief package and suggested at times he could support one bigger than the $2.2 trillion amount that Democrats wanted. But Republicans didn’t follow suit and repeatedly threw cold water over his demands. They instead opted to push for a $500 billion relief package that Democrats blocked twice.
The president’s position on stimulus has veered wildly in the past and he has been largely quiet on the subject since his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden. Trump, though, has indicated recently he still backs large stimulus checks. “Right now, I want to see checks – for more money than they’re talking about – going to people,” he told Fox News in an interview that aired Sunday.
The White House jumped into the stimulus negotiations last week with a $916 billion offer, and it included $600 stimulus checks for people. But Democrats panned its exclusion of federal unemployment benefits.
On Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont have led calls to include stimulus checks, which were initially left out of a bipartisan plan now under consideration. Progressive lawmakers in the House have also ramped up their drive to include sizable stimulus payments in the next relief package.
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