Biden: Trump ‘turned his back’ on Americans by pulling out of COVID-19 relief talks

Joe Biden eagerly seized on President Trump pulling out of negotiations with House Democrats on an emergency pandemic relief bill as more evidence for the Democratic candidate’s closing argument in the final month of the campaign: that Trump doesn’t care about working Americans.

“He turned his back on the small businesses that are struggling to keep their doors open. He turned his back on the firefighters and police officers and other first responders who depend on state and local government budgets that are strained to the breaking point,” Biden said in a written statement released Tuesday evening. “He turned his back on every single worker whose job hasn’t come back yet — and who are left to wonder when they’ll get the break they deserve. He turned his back on families struggling to pay rent, put food on their table, and take care of their kids.”

Hours earlier, Trump sent U.S. markets tumbling by announcing he was directing Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who he had tasked with negotiating a compromise with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to suspend talks until after the election.

“Nancy Pelosi is asking for $2.4 Trillion Dollars to bailout poorly run, high crime, Democrat States, money that is in no way related to COVID-19. We made a very generous offer of $1.6 Trillion Dollars and, as usual, she is not negotiating in good faith. I am rejecting their request, and looking to the future of our Country,” Trump, who spent his first full day back in the White House Tuesday after receiving treatment for COVID-19 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, said on Twitter. “I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business. I have asked Mitch McConnell not to delay, but to instead focus full time on approving my outstanding nominee to the United States Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett. Our Economy is doing very well. The Stock Market is at record levels, JOBS and unemployment also coming back in record numbers. We are leading the World in Economic Recovery, and THE BEST IS YET TO COME!”

Trump’s apparently impulsive move baffled political observers who saw a deal as his best hope to get past the COVID-19 catastrophe by taking credit for sending relief payments to voters ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Instead, Trump, who trails Biden by a growing margin in most polls, went out of his way to take responsibility for the collapse of the talks.

The president’s move also mystified Republicans in tough races for reelection, such as Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

“Waiting until after the election to reach an agreement on the next COVID-19 relief package is a huge mistake,” Collins told reporters Tuesday.

With the U.S. jobs deficit still at nearly 11.5 million jobs since the start of the pandemic, Pelosi wasted little time in lashing out at the president’s decision.

“Today, once again, President Trump showed his true colors: putting himself first at the expense of the country, with the full complicity of the GOP Members of Congress,” she said in a written statement. “Walking away from coronavirus talks demonstrates that President Trump is unwilling to crush the virus, as is required by the Heroes Act. He shows his contempt for science, his disdain for our heroes — in health care, first responders, sanitation, transportation, food workers, teachers, teachers, teachers and others — and he refuses to put money in workers’ pockets, unless his name is printed on the check.”

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Capitol Hill reporters that he approved of Trump’s move to kill negotiations before the election and to focus solely on appointing Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

“I think his view was that they were not gonna produce a result and that we needed to concentrate on what’s achievable,” McConnell said Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell encouraged Congress to spend big on coronavirus relief for American families, and Pelosi included that message in her statement.

“Clearly, the White House is in complete disarray,” Pelosi said in her statement. “Sadly, they are rejecting the urgent warnings of Fed Chairman Powell today, that ‘Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses. Over time, household insolvencies and business bankruptcies would rise, harming the productive capacity of the economy and holding back wage growth. By contrast, the risks of overdoing it seem, for now, to be smaller. Even if policy actions ultimately prove to be greater than needed, they will not go to waste.’”

Having spent the day in his private residence in the White House, Trump seemed to miss the meaning behind Powell’s words, retweeting a portion of them with the accompanying message, “True!”

Biden, meanwhile, made clear that, in his view, blame for the failure to reach a deal rested solely with the president, saying Trump “never even really tried to get a deal for these Americans. Not once did he bring Republicans and Democrats together in the Oval Office, on the phone, or by Zoom, to get a relief package that would help working people and small businesses in this country. Not once in the months since the House passed a relief package in May has he stepped up to lead.”

Related: 2020 Presidential debate

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