House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped into the White House's latest $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief offer during a combative interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, accusing President Trump of only wanting to send out a second round of stimulus checks to juice the economy and boost his election odds.
The Trump administration's proposal -- its largest yet -- drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, dimming the odds of another round of emergency aid before the Nov. 3 election. It was expected to include a second round of direct payments of up to $1,200 for adults and $1,000 for children; expanded unemployment benefits at $400 per week and additional funding for state and local governments.
Blitzer pressed Pelosi about her decision to reject the deal, even as some Democrats, including former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and California Rep. Ro Khanna, urged her to accept the offer. (Khanna tweeted that Pelosi should "make a deal & put the ball in McConnell court").
"What I say to you is I don't know why you're always an apologist, and many of your colleagues, apologists for the Republican position," Pelosi told Blitzer. "Ro Khanna, that's nice. That isn't what we're going to do. And nobody is waiting till February. I want this very much now. Because people need help now. But it's no use giving them a false thing just because the president wants to put a check with his name on it in the mail."
For months, Congress has struggled to reach an agreement on additional stimulus. Negotiations first collapsed in early August, prompting Trump to sign four executive measures intended to provide relief to families still reeling from the virus-induced crisis, including temporarily extending supplemental jobless aid at $300 a week.
But that aid is beginning to expire, and lifelines that propped up the economy in the early weeks of the pandemic — like the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program, a one-time $1,200 stimulus check and sweetened unemployment benefits — lapsed weeks ago.
Blitzer questioned whether there's a reluctance to make a deal so as to "not allow the president to take credit," citing a letter that Pelosi wrote to Democratic colleagues in which she said that "a fly on the wall or wherever else it might land in the Oval Office tells me that the President only wants his name on a check to go out before Election Day and for the market to go up."
"With all due respect, with all due respect — and you know we’ve known each other a long time — you really don't know what you're talking about," Pelosi shot back. "Do a service to the issue and have some level of respect for the people who have worked on these issues, written the bill to begin with."
Although Democrats and Republicans broadly agree that another bill is necessary to aid the economy's recovery, they sharply disagree over the size and scope of it.
Economists have urged lawmakers to pass another round of emergency aid, or risk imperiling the nation's tepid turnaround from the virus-induced crisis. There are still 10 million more unemployed Americans than there were in February, before the economy shut down.
“Even if policy actions ultimately prove to be greater than needed, they will not go to waste," Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said last week. "The recovery will be stronger and move faster if monetary policy and fiscal policy continue to work side by side to provide support to the economy until it is clearly out of the woods."
Any bill still needs to get through the Democratic-controlled House and the GOP-controlled Senate, where some Republicans have expressed concern about another massive spending initiative amid the nation's ballooning deficit, which is projected to hit a record-shattering $3.3 trillion this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.