President Donald Trump said that he has instructed aides to stop negotiating on another round of Covid-19 relief until after the election.
Mr Trump tweeted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was “not negotiating in good faith” and said he has asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to direct all his focus before the election into confirming his US Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.
“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,” President Trump tweeted.
However, hours later Mr Trump appeared to pull back somewhat from his call to end negotiations.
He took to Twitter again and called on Congress to send him a “Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200)” — a reference to a pre-election batch of direct payments to most Americans that had been a central piece of negotiations between Ms Pelosi and the White House. Ms Pelosi has generally rejected taking a piecemeal approach to Covid relief.
“I am ready to sign right now. Are you listening Nancy?” Mr Trump said amid a flurry of tweets on Tuesday evening. He also called on Congress to immediately approve 25 billion dollars (£19.4bn) for airlines and 135 billion dollars (£104.7bn) for the Paycheck Protection Program to help small businesses.
The day’s events could be a blow to Mr Trump’s re-election prospects and comes with his administration and campaign in turmoil.
Mr Trump is quarantining in the White House with a case of Covid, and the latest batch of opinion polls shows him significantly behind former vice president Joe Biden with the election four weeks away.
The collapse means Mr Trump and down-ballot Republicans will face re-election without delivering aid to voters — such as the 1,200 dollar (£930) direct payments, or “Trump checks,” to most individuals — even as the national jobless rate sits at around 8% with millions facing the threat of eviction.
One endangered Republican, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, said “waiting until after the election to reach an agreement on the next Covid-19 relief package is a huge mistake”.
Last week, the White House said it was backing a 400 US dollars (£310) per week pandemic jobless benefit and dangled the possibility of a Covid-19 relief bill of 1.6 trillion dollars (£1.24 trillion).
But that offer was rejected by Ms Pelosi.
Mr Biden was highly critical of Mr Trump’s move.
In a statement, he said: “Make no mistake: if you are out of work, if your business is closed, if your child’s school is shut down, if you are seeing layoffs in your community, Donald Trump decided today that none of that – none of it – matters to him.”
Mr Trump broke off talks after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned earlier on Tuesday that the economic recovery remains fragile seven months into coronavirus pandemic without further economic stimulus.
Stocks dropped suddenly on Wall Street after President Trump ordered a stop to negotiations.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average swung instantly from a gain of about 200 points to a loss of about 300 points.
Mr Powell, in remarks before the National Association for Business Economics, made clear that too little support “would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses”.