His comments — which were inaccurate in some respects — came at the end of a day when Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Democrats blocked a narrowly crafted GOP relief bill, which itself was much smaller than what the president wants.
At the same time, House Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif.) reported progress in her ongoing but laborious negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on a much bigger package, while acknowledging it might not be possible for Congress to finalize a bill ahead of the election less than two weeks away. Trump’s Twitter post came 84 minutes after Pelosi’s spokesman said the Democratic leader and Mnuchin were close to putting “pen to paper” on legislation.
The developments all came a day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) disclosed that he had counseled the White House against making a deal with Pelosi ahead of the election, partly because it could interfere with the Senate’s plans to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court next week.
Senate Republicans are largely opposed to a bill along the lines of the $2 trillion measure Trump has demanded and which Pelosi and Mnuchin have been negotiating. Although Pelosi has continued to hold out hope for a deal to emerge in coming days, Trump’s tweets suggested he was giving up on the process, just the latest abrupt shift from the president, who has moved around erratically in the course of the negotiations.
McConnell, meanwhile, tried to advance a slimmed-down, approximately $500 billion bill on the Senate floor, but Democrats blocked it, just as they did last month when McConnell tried to move a nearly identical bill. The vote in the Senate was 51 to 44 along party lines, well short of the 60 votes that would have been needed to advance the legislation.
Senate GOP leaders argued that their “targeted” stimulus bill was the appropriate response and would have provided at least some help to needy Americans who have been waiting months for more relief from Congress as layoffs mount and coronavirus cases rise. The bill included new money for small businesses, schools, health-care systems and the unemployed, but it omitted Democratic priorities such as state and local aid — as well as $1,200 stimulus checks for individuals, a provision supported by Trump.
The legislation “would move us past Speaker Pelosi’s all-or-nothing obstruction and deliver huge support right now for the most pressing needs of our country,” McConnell said ahead of the vote.
Democrats and many Republicans have said major problems continue to exist in the economy months after the coronavirus pandemic spread across the United States. But they are divided on what kind of federal response to pursue.
Schumer called the vote on the GOP bill a political stunt that was designed to fail, saying the legislation “leaves so many Americans behind.”
At the same time, Pelosi voiced optimism about her continued talks with Mnuchin on the much larger measure sought by Trump. But the House speaker acknowledged that final passage might have to wait until after Nov. 3.
“We obviously want to have a deal by November 3rd. That really is going to be up to whether the president can convince Mitch McConnell to do so,” Pelosi said in an interview on Sirius XM radio. "I think Mitch McConnell might not mind doing it after the election.”
Pelosi held another in what have become daily phone negotiating sessions with Mnuchin on Wednesday afternoon. Her spokesman Drew Hammill said on Twitter that their conversation “brings us closer to being able to put pen to paper to write legislation. With the exchange of legislative language, we are better prepared to reach compromise on several priorities.”
“Differences continue to be narrowed on health priorities, including language providing a national strategic testing and contact tracing plan, but more work needs to be done to ensure that schools are the safest places in America for children to learn,” Hammill wrote.
Earlier, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows joined Senate Republicans for a closed-door lunch as GOP senators continued to voice opposition to a massive new spending bill.
Meadows was questioned by one senator at the lunch about Trump’s desire to spend even more money than Pelosi, according to several people familiar with the event who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss it. Meadows replied that Mnuchin has been moving closer to Pelosi’s position without any movement by the speaker, the people said.
“Obviously there are a number of senators that have concerns over the amount we’re spending,” Meadows told reporters as he exited the lunch, adding: "There are some that think we’re not spending enough.”
A few Republicans in tough reelection fights, such as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), do support passing a big new relief bill — though not necessarily the one taking shape between Pelosi and Mnuchin. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), another senior lawmaker who is up for reelection, told reporters that it’s not just the size of the bill but some of the policies it contains.
Senate Republicans have blasted a number of items under consideration, including expanding Affordable Care Act tax credits and sending stimulus checks to undocumented immigrants.
“I think part of the problem is that people have just been focusing on the top line,” Cornyn told reporters. “There’s more than just the top line, it’s the substance that we haven’t been talking about or focusing on.”
“Part of the message from Senate Republicans is we need to have a discussion about the substance and whether irrespective of the top line whether the policy makes sense,” the senator said.
In an afternoon interview on Fox News Channel, Meadows acknowledged the policy concerns from GOP senators and said Mnuchin had now moved up to around $1.9 trillion in the talks with Pelosi.
“When you look at $1.9 trillion, is Nancy Pelosi really going to tell that, I’m not going to send that relief to you just for political reasons?” Meadows said. “And I don’t think our chances get better after election. I do think the next 24 to 48 hours will tell us a whole lot.”
Trump has adopted one stance after another on the Mnuchin-Pelosi talks, at one point calling them off altogether but more recently demanding even more money than Democrats have proposed spending, and criticizing Mnuchin for failing to “bring home the bacon.”
His tweets Wednesday evening suggested a new downbeat stance, while repeating the incorrect claim that Democrats are trying to “bail out” blue states. Republican governors and municipal leaders have also pleaded with Washington for additional aid as tax revenue plummets.
Some Senate Republicans said it was unclear why exactly Meadows came to Capitol Hill after lawmakers have made their views well-known on another stimulus bill.
“Maybe he just needed to get out of the White House, I don’t know,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
Blunt also voiced pessimism about prospects for advancing significant relief legislation during Congress’s “lame duck” session that will take place after the election. He said getting anything done during a lame duck is always difficult.
“If we’re going to do it this year, I think it’s now or never,” Blunt said.
Pelosi and Mnuchin are scheduled to talk again Thursday.
Jeff Stein contributed to this report.