President Donald Trump. Getty/Chip Somodevilla
President Donald Trump does not back the $908 billion COVID-19 stimulus bill, a compromise measure that is gaining momentum with GOP senators and leading Democrats.
The White House clarified his stance on Thursday after a press conference where he voiced support for a stimulus plan without being totally clear on which one.
Officials said Trump backed the Republican proposal for a smaller stimulus package favored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to reports.
McConnell has called for bipartisanship but has stuck to his own proposal, which is more limited.
Trump’s signature is needed to enact a bill into law, but the real power broker on the GOP side appears to be McConnell, who’s leading the negotiations.
Lawmakers have little time to hammer out the details — they also have a looming government shutdown to contend with.
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President Donald Trump does not support the $908 billion compromise COVID-19 stimulus bill, presenting a significant barrier event as it gains momentum with lawmakers.
The plan, proposed by a group of lawmakers from both parties, has gained support from leading Democrats and some GOP senators as pressure builds to provide more relief during the pandemic.
It stands in contrast to a much more restrictive bill preferred by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who’s leading the negotiations for the GOP.
Trump on Thursday appeared to offer some hope for new stimulus, but his officials later poured cold water on the idea that he would accept the $908 billion plan.
Asked at a press conference whether he supported “this bill,” Trump said, “I will, and I think we are getting very close,” according to The New York Times and The Washington Post.
But it wasn’t clear which bill he meant. The White House later clarified that he meant McConnell’s bill and not the bipartisan one, The Times and The Post said.
Several Republican senators, including John Cornyn of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have signaled support for the bipartisan bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer backed it on Wednesday.
Trump has largely stepped back from the stimulus negotiations since the election, handing the reins to McConnell. While calling for bipartisanship, McConnell on Wednesday suggested that his bill was the only viable contender and argued that Trump would veto anything else.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
A GOP bill very similar to McConnell’s recent proposal has already failed twice this year.
A White House representative, Sarah Matthews, told Business Insider on Thursday that the Trump administration was “supportive” of McConnell’s efforts but did not give more specifics.
At $908 billion, the bipartisan bill exceeds what McConnell has been willing to commit to. But it represents a massive compromise compared with Democrats’ demand for $2.2 trillion.
The two bills have some key differences:
The $908 billion stimulus package proposes support for small businesses, state and local governments, and schools, as well as funding for unemployment insurance, healthcare, and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.
McConnell’s package is said to omit federal unemployment benefits but has provisions for education funding, small-business aid, and pandemic-related liability protections for businesses.
Neither bill includes another round of $1,200 checks, a popular measure from the pandemic stimulus law enacted in the spring.
Before the election, Trump repeatedly called for a generous package, at times saying he’d seek to go bigger than what Democrats had asked for.
But as Business Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig noted, Trump’s influence over the GOP relief negotiations may have shrunk significantly since his election loss became clear.
President-elect Joe Biden told CNN on Thursday that he backed the bill as a stopgap measure. He said that when he assumed the presidency, he would “have to ask for more help.” While his words have weight, he has no formal influence over the process before taking office.
Time is running short as coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise.
As well as agreeing on a stimulus deal, Congress has to contend with government funding to avert a shutdown on December 11.
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