President Donald Trump's abrupt decision Tuesday to order a halt to coronavirus relief negotiations despite widespread and growing economic suffering, hunger, and a looming mass eviction crisis came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly told the president that any compromise deal would likely be doomed to fail in the Republican-controlled chamber.
On a call with Trump shortly before he fired off a series of tweets announcing the end of stimulus talks, McConnell "suggested to Trump that [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi was stringing him along and no deal she cut with [Treasury Secretary Steve] Mnuchin would command broad GOP support to pass in the Senate," the Washington Post reported, citing two unnamed sources with knowledge of the conversation.
"We are looking at the potential of hunger in the United States exploding on a level that we have never seen since the Great Depression. And all of it is preventable. All of it."
—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
McConnell publicly voiced agreement with the president's instructions to push off stimulus negotiations until after next month's election and focus fully on confirming right-wing Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, despite polling showing that even a majority of Republican voters want the Senate to prioritize another aid package.
"I think his view was that they were not going to produce a result and we needed to concentrate on what's achievable," the Kentucky Republican told reporters Tuesday, just 24 hours after Trump departed Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after a brief stay for coronavirus treatment.
For months, in the face of increasingly dire economic circumstances and nationwide desperation, McConnell and his GOP allies in Congress have obstructed progress on an additional aid package, allowing relief programs approved by previous stimulus legislation to expire and abandoning tens of millions of jobless Americans to drastically reduced incomes.
Last week, as Common Dreams reported, not a single Republican representative voted for a $2.2 trillion compromise version of House Democrats' HEROES Act. McConnell has dismissed the House-passed legislation as a "political stunt" and refused to allow the bill to reach the Senate floor for a vote.
"They are telling all working people, no matter who we vote for or what state we live in, to drop dead," tweeted the Working Families Party.
In an interview on MSNBC Tuesday night, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) warned that "if the president and the GOP follow through with walking away from Covid relief, we are staring down the barrel at one of the largest mass eviction crises in this country since the Great Depression."
"We're looking at a potential second wave [of the coronavirus] that could be catastrophic," said Ocasio-Cortez. "We are looking at the potential of hunger in the United States exploding on a level that we have never seen since the Great Depression. And all of it is preventable. All of it."
"I don’t think that we should be making any large political decisions when the president is in such a perilous medical state. He is still receiving interventions and treatments and we’re in the middle of talking about and making dramatic decisions about...COVID stimulus." - @AOC pic.twitter.com/I5Il9uZUWb
— Indivisible Guide (@IndivisibleTeam) October 7, 2020
Just hours after killing negotiations over a broad relief package that likely would have included aid to state and local governments, stimulus checks, and an extension of the lapsed federal unemployment insurance boost, Trump took to Twitter once more to advocate stand-alone bills to assist the airline industry and provide another round of direct $1,200 payments.
"If I am sent a Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200), they will go out to our great people IMMEDIATELY," the president tweeted. "I am ready to sign right now. Are you listening Nancy?"
Mitch McConnell told Trump to end bipartisan talks on economic aid for American families and Trump did as he was told. https://t.co/Vr9cwxR1Hb
Now he's trying to avoid being blamed for what he did just a few hours ago. https://t.co/C3kncHNIJY
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) October 7, 2020
Following the president's earlier call for an end to relief negotiations, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.)—co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus—tweeted that "by walking away from the Covid package we just passed, Trump is turning his back on you—and on economic relief, expanded unemployment assistance, stimulus checks, eviction moratoriums, help for businesses."
"He doesn't care about workers and families," Jayapal added. "He only cares about himself."
Kyle Herrig, president of watchdog group Accountable.US, echoed Jayapal in a statement late Tuesday. "Economic experts and working Americans agree: the time for Congress to secure a new aid deal is now," said Herrig. "Unfortunately, President Trump and his Senate allies don't feel the same."
"While Trump and his friends in Congress prioritize Barrett's nomination over new coronavirus relief," Herrig continued, "American families and small businesses—and by extension, the nation's economy—continue to suffer."