President Donald Trump supported a House coronavirus relief plan Friday night after hours of talks between Democrats and his administration on how to blunt the economic damage of the global pandemic.
In a series of tweets, the president said “I fully support” the legislation negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He urged Republicans and Democrats in the House to support the bill and said he looks forward to signing it “ASAP!”
The House hopes to vote Friday to provide relief to consumers and workers walloped by the outbreak. Trump’s support should help to get Republicans in both the House and Senate on board. The upper chamber left Washington for the weekend and will not have a chance to approve legislation until next week.
Confusion swirled around the plan’s fate earlier Friday as the outbreak spread. Earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to colleagues that “we are proud to have reached an agreement” on an economic relief proposal with the White House. But after 7:30 p.m. ET, the second-ranking Democrat in the House said his party had not actually reached a deal with the White House.
“She thought there was” a deal, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told NBC News when asked why Pelosi announced an agreement.
Around that time, a senior administration official told CNBC that the “text doesn’t yet reflect the deal that [Mnuchin] believed he had.”
When Pelosi announced the agreement, she said the legislation includes:
- Free coronavirus testing for all who need it, including those without insurance
- Up to two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave
- Stronger unemployment insurance for furloughed workers
- Buttressing SNAP and other food programs for school children and seniors
- More money for Medicaid, the joint federal and state insurance program for low-income Americans
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, March 12, 2020.
Sarah Silbiget | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Trump gave his own description of the deal designed in part to assuage GOP concerns. He wrote that it “will follow my direction for free CoronaVirus tests, and paid sick leave for our impacted American workers.”
The president also said he directed Mnuchin and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia “to issue regulations that will provide flexibility so that in no way will Small Businesses be hurt.”
Pelosi first announced a deal only about two hours after Trump indicated he would oppose a version of the Democratic-backed plan. On an earlier conference call, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also told GOP members he did not yet support the legislation.
The overarching provisions described by Pelosi largely matched the developing agreement she described Thursday night. Pelosi and Mnuchin had 13 separate conversations throughout the day, the last at 5:48 p.m. ET after Trump’s Rose Garden news conference, according to Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill.
In a note to colleagues Friday night, Pelosi said that “because it was essential for us to have legislation pass the House by this weekend, it required intense and constant negotiations for what could have been an elusive agreement.” Not only did the House want to respond quickly to the crisis, but also it has a scheduled recess next week.
Asked by reporters Friday night if she spoke to Trump this week, Pelosi responded, “There was no need for that.”
At the same news conference, Hoyer called the proposal a “good bill.” He added, “It is not as good as we thought it could be, but legislating is give and take.”
Trump took steps to try to mitigate damage on Friday as he faces backlash for his administration’s response to the crisis. He declared a national emergency, said he would temporarily waive the interest on federal student loans and directed his administration to buy oil for its strategic reserve.
The spreading coronavirus crisis has led to fears of widespread economic disruption and workers, either sick or laid off by businesses battered by the outbreak, unable to make ends meet. Major U.S. stock indexes all fell at least 8% this week despite a spike on Friday.
The U.S. has more than 1,700 cases of the coronavirus disease COVID-19, and at least 40 people have died from it, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The rapid spread of the coronavirus in other countries, and Trump’s public comments on its transmission here, have led to concerns about his administration’s ability to handle testing and the capacity of the U.S. health care system to treat patients.
The outbreak has upended American life. States and cities have suspended school or banned large gatherings.
Louisiana became the first state to delay its presidential primary due to the virus, as candidates have effectively stopped campaigning in person because of it. Sports leagues such as the NBA and NHL have suspended their seasons, while the NCAA canceled its March Madness basketball tournaments.
— CNBC’s Eamon Javers contributed to this report