Trump Says Postal Service Funding Sticking Point in Pandemic Aid Negotiations

Screenshot of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi beside a poster outlining funding differences in proposed bills to aid Americans during the pandemic.

WASHINGTON (CN) — As millions of Americans have been infected with Covid-19 and millions more are jobless and facing eviction, President Donald Trump said Thursday that a major roadblock fo a new virus relief package was proposed funding for the U.S. Postal Service.

During a Fox News talk show, Trump claimed Democrats were pushing for universal mail-in voting and needed several billion dollars in funding for the Postal Service to make that happen. Trump also predicted again, without providing evidence, that mail-in voting would result in voter fraud.

“Now they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said. “But if they don’t get those two items, that mean you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped to have it.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said from the Capitol Thursday that Trump’s comments had, “no basis in fact.” Democrats, she said, were trying to meet the needs of the American people.

“What they’re saying is different from what the president is saying,” Pelosi said. “If they came in the room and said, ‘the president is never doing this,’ that’s something we take to the American people and the American people want the postal service protected and preserved. It’s a very sad situation.”

In discussions with Republicans, Democrats have pushed for $10 billion for the Postal Service in a Covid-19 relief bill, down from $25 billion in a House-passed measure. Pelosi said in an interview on MSNBC that the $25 billion was originally proposed by the Postal Service’s Board of Governors, not Democrats.

Pelosi also blamed Republicans for stalled negotiations on a measure that could provide a modicum of relief to their constituents.  She said that those on the other side of the aisle don’t understand the extent to which Americans are struggling.  

“Perhaps you mistook them for someone who gave a damn; that isn’t the case,” Pelosi said in a press conference Thursday. “Unless they see the reality of what it means in the lives of the American people, what good is it for us to agree to something that has no relationship to meeting the needs of the American people?”

Pelosi said more than 3.75 million Americans have been infected with Covid-19 since Democrats passed a bill to supplement income, fortify states’ testing capabilities and prevent evictions. 

The California Democrat, noted it had been 90 days since the $3 trillion relief bill passed the Democrat-controlled house — with $500 billion earmarked for states and another $375 billion for localities to support testing and contact tracing efforts. Included in that legislation was an extension of the $600 a week enhanced unemployment benefits, along with $10 billion to the food stamp program and other supportive provisions.

Republican leadership in the Senate balked at the so-called Heroes Act, instead introducing a limited $1 trillion bill last month — which included language directing the rebuild of the FBI’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. The bill would fund another round of $1,200 economic impact payments to Americans, but would cleave their federal unemployment benefits back to $200 a month.

“When sometimes some of you reporters ask, ‘why can’t we resolve our differences,’ I want you to see how vast those differences are,” Pelosi said Thursday, pointing to a poster displaying funding differences between the proposals. “It’s no wonder we have a vast difference because this administration, under Republicans in Congress, have never understood the gravity of the situation. For months and even until now, they’ve ignored the science.”

Negotiations have stalled as lawmakers have failed to find a compromise between the House’s May bill and a diluted Senate proposal. Yesterday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement he and Pelosi had spoken by phone but that, “The Democrats have no interest in negotiating.”

“She made clear that she was unwilling to meet to continue negotiations unless we agreed in advance to her proposal, costing at least $2 trillion,” Mnuchin said.

In response, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reiterated the White House team, including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, had stonewalled negotiations. In a joint statement, the lawmakers said Democrats offered the $2 trillion relief package as a compromise between the two proposals saying the Trump administration “does not grasp the magnitude of the problems that American families are facing.”

Pelosi also said the magnitude of those problems had only increased since the House passed their relief bill 90 days ago. For example, school funding is $95 billion below what experts’ recommended. A collection of educator groups, including the Association of School Superintendents, said in April that $200 billion was needed to reopen schools. 

“They have 105,” Pelosi said. “But what’s interesting about their 105 is the bulk of what they have in the bill goes to only schools that are opening actually. … Of the 100 largest – see we learn every day from those who are on the front lines, instead of those who are on the sidelines – from the 100 largest school districts in the country, … 62 of those largest districts have declared they will open virtually.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said from the Senate Thursday the Democrat proposal was a “crazy wish-list” and “completely unrealistic.” While McConnell said he had no illusion the initial Senate Republican bill would need tweaking, it was Democrats who had failed to help find common ground across the aisle — Democrats only pretending to negotiate by beginning talks with high amounts of spending.

“That’s not negotiating. That’s throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks,” McConnell said. “People who have serious policy proposals that are fitted to actual needs cannot breezily knock off a trillion here and add a trillion there.”

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