White House aides stepped in to stop President Donald Trump on Thursday from issuing a statement calling for much larger stimulus payments to millions of Americans in a move that would have undermined his own treasury secretary, the Washington Post reported late Thursday.
Two people with knowledge of the exchange told the Post that on a Thursday afternoon phone call to allies Trump said that he believes stimulus payments in the next relief package should be “at least” $1,200 per person and possibly as big as $2,000 per person — a drastic increase from the stimulus package underway in Congress after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin released a proposal last week calling for stimulus payments of $600 per person.
“There are a lot of people who like checks, including the President, and there’s a lot of support both among Republicans and Democrats,” Mnuchin told reporters in a video conference last week of the proposal which also included far less in federal unemployment benefits.
But the number on the proposed checks was apparently not big enough for Trump, who was in the middle of formally drafting his demand for the larger payments on Thursday when White House officials told him the effort could wreck negotiations over the economic relief package, according to the Post.
One person who heard the exchange described the aides as “frantic,” suggesting that the move would blow up negotiations.
The aides successfully discouraged Trump from calling for the larger stimulus payments which will likely he his last major piece of economic legislation before leaving office next month, the Post said. The first round of stimulus checks earlier this year featured the President’s name.
The demand for larger stimulus checks would likely have ballooned the package’s total to well over $1 trillion which Republicans in Congress have said is their ceiling.
The $600 checks are just half of what House Democrats approved in legislation this summer that included another round of $1,200 stimulus payments that were shelled out to Americans earlier this year.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released a plan earlier this month that would have sent no additional stimulus checks. A $600 check per person was added back into negotiations following a push led by Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
White House spokesman Ben Williamson issued a statement to the Post regarding the revelation about Trump’s close call in making the demand, saying, the President had heard from Americans who are “hurting through no fault of their own, and he’s made clear he wants the next round of relief to include stimulus checks at a significant number.”
“We’re working with Congress to settle on an agreement that can pass as soon as possible,” he added.