Reversing stance, Trump now says 'really good chance' of a US coronavirus stimulus deal

Trump speaks outside the White House in a still image taken from a social media video on Oct 8, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Donald Trump said on Thursday (Oct 8) he now sees "really good" odds of reaching a deal with Democrats in Congress on a new round of coronavirus stimulus to boost the battered United States economy, a sharp reversal from his stance earlier this week.

"We're starting to have some very productive talks," he said, referring specifically to proposals for assistance for airlines and US$1,200 (S$1,600) cheques for workers.

"We're talking about a bigger deal than airlines," he told Fox Business News.

"I think we have a really good chance of doing something."

His comments marked a definitive about-face after abruptly ending the negotiations with Congressional Democrats on Tuesday and saying the stimulus package would have to wait until after the Nov 3 election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been negotiating for weeks, raising hopes for a huge, new relief package, but Mr Trump accused Ms Pelosi of not negotiating in good faith.

Following an outcry from both parties and business leaders as well as a drop in the stock market, Mr Trump changed gear and called for Congress to "immediately" pass standalone legislation to extend aid to airline workers and small businesses.

Ms Pelosi's team seized on the President's statement, pointing out that just last week Republicans blocked a standalone Bill to prevent massive layoffs by airlines.

In the interview, Mr Trump struck a more conciliatory tone, saying "it's not anybody's fault" the talks were not successful.

"It wasn't going anywhere, I shut it down. I don't want to play games. Then we reopened, and I see markets are doing well," Mr Trump said, highlighting one of his favoured measures of success.

Wall Street closed with solid gains on Wednesday, and was up slightly in early trading on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average posting a gain 0.3 per cent around 1410 GMT.

Ms Pelosi and Mr Mnuchin spoke by telephone twice on Wednesday about a new stimulus package, and were due to talk again on Thursday, according to her staff.

Economists say a new round of government support is critical to prevent a wave of layoffs and bankruptcies and provide support for the unemployed.

The Labour Department reported on Thursday that new applications for jobless benefits held at the very high level of 840,000 last week, and more than 25.2 million people in the United States were receiving some form of government aid in the week ended Sept 19.

Ms Pelosi has said she would support a standalone measure to help airlines.

But Democrats are unlikely to agree to a piecemeal approach, since that would surrender the leverage needed to win concessions like aid to state and local governments to prevent job cuts among public workers.

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