Trump urges Republicans to back big virus stimulus package

US President Donald Trump, falling behind in the polls against Democrat Joe Biden ahead of the November election, on Wednesday urged his Republican Party to back a big-spending coronavirus stimulus package.

Trump blamed “heartless” Democrats for Congress’ failure to agree on another bill injecting cash into struggling households and businesses after months of virus lockdowns.

But in a tweet, he told Republicans to “go for the much higher numbers,” saying Congress must give “STIMULUS PAYMENTS to people who desperately need the money, and whose fault it was NOT that the plague came in from China.”

Negotiations in Congress have been at a standstill for weeks, with Republicans balking at what they say is the unrealistically high price tag demanded by Democrats.

A possible compromise, however, is being proposed by a group of centrist legislators calling for about $1.5 trillion in spending — far above the Republicans’ proposed “skinny stimulus” bill, but below the bigger Democratic offer.

Trump told reporters he was largely in favor, pending more negotiations.

“I like the larger amount. I’ve said that. Some of the Republicans disagree,” he said. “I want to see people get money.”

The White House in particular has branded Democratic proposals as a generalized bailout for state and local authorities suffering from non-virus-related financial woes.

But as the November 3 presidential and congressional elections approach, both sides are under pressure not to appear as having abandoned voters.

Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are said to be wary of handing Trump an opportunity to mount a PR coup on the eve of the election. 

But on Tuesday, Pelosi told lawmakers they would remain in Washington until they take action on the federal aid, according to US media.

Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said Wednesday that there is “a growing sense that there are still some real needs to be addressed.”

“If the speaker is saying she’s willing to stay in until a deal gets done, that’s also another encouraging sign,” he said.

“The biggest stumbling block is if we use this pandemic as a bailout mechanism for poorly run states,” Meadows said. “That would be a very difficult hurdle to overcome.”