President Donald Trump returned to the White House after three days at Walter Reed. He removed his mask on the steps of the balcony.
WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday questioned whether the president taking a steroid to treat his COVID-19 infection was impacting his decision making on providing relief to Americans weathering the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Capitol Hill source who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss the contents of a private call.
Pelosi made the remark on a conference call with fellow House Democrats Tuesday afternoon, just after President Donald Trump announced he was halting negotiations on a coronavirus stimulus bill to help Americans and businesses impacted by the ongoing pandemic.
The president, who contracted COVID-19 late last week and just last night returned from the hospital, abruptly pulled the plug on continued talks between his administration and top Democrats on Capitol Hill for another bill, which was expected to include another round of stimulus checks for Americans, boosted unemployment assistance and an influx of cash to restart a popular small business loan program.
Trump made the announcement over Twitter, writing that Democrats were “not negotiating in good faith.” He told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to instead “focus full time” on confirming Trump’s 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,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
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Election experts have warned the public to brace for days or even weeks for final results in the presidential race because of the unprecedented volume of mail ballots during the pandemic. Several states including battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin don’t allow election officials to begin processing absentee ballots until Election Day.
House Democrats were holding a caucus-wide call as Trump tweeted that negotiations on another bill were being halted, according to a Democratic aide that spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations. Pelosi had spent part of the call telling fellow Democrats that she was planning to speak with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, one of the top White House negotiators, later Tuesday and that the biggest hurdle was funds for state and local governments, the aide said.
Trump’s tweet came as members were asking public health experts, which were guests on the call, questions about the coronavirus, vaccines and testing across the country.
“Can’t think of more of a split screen than that,” the aide noted.
Before the call ended, Pelosi responded to the president halting the talks and raised the issue of the president using steroids to treat COVID-19 and whether that was to blame for his sudden change of heart, the Capitol Hill source said.
Trump was given a number of therapeutics and medications during his three-night stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, including dexamethasone — a steroid that has shown promise in improving survival outcomes in COVID-19 patients. But like other steroids, the drug may cause some severe side effects, such as new or worsening diabetes, as well as psychosis or emotional disturbance.
Along with the drug, Trump received a single 8 gram dose of Regeneron’s polyclonal antibody cocktail on Friday as a precautionary measure. He also has received several rounds of Remdesivir therapy and has taken zinc, vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and a daily aspirin, doctors said.
The president’s sudden rejection and insistence on restarting negotiations after Nov. 3 came after weeks of him insisting that Congress pass a large package that offered financial relief to American, even as congressional Republicans voiced heartburn over the ballooning national debt.
Some lawmakers privately questioned whether Trump’s tweet was serious or just another attempt at forcing Democrats toward a deal, something the president hinted at after signing a number of executive orders in August after negotiations with congressional Democrats collapsed on a bill.
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Trump’s decision to halt discussions means both parties head into a crucial election without more relief for Americans struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to unprecedented levels of unemployment and caused businesses to suffer as states impose social distancing measures.
Both sides had deadlocked on a number of issues, including the amount of aid to give to state and local governments. Republicans were wary of adding to the deficit and said the money would bail out mismanaged local governments.
Trump’s stance to end negotiations could be a gamble for both him and congressional Republicans just four weeks before Election Day. Senate Republicans hold a slim 53-47 majority and polling suggests Democrats have a chance of taking several seats and with it, the majority in the chamber.
Republicans have for weeks blamed Democratic leadership for the lapse in aid and the impasse over future relief, but now their party’s top leader publicly spiked discussions over another bill, allowing Democrats to shift blame to the GOP.
Contributing: John Fritze and Joshua Bote
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