US President Donald Trump returned to the Oval Office on Wednesday to be briefed on the status of stalled economic aid talks and a hurricane approaching the US Gulf coast, a White House spokesman said. It was Trump’s first return to the office since his coronavirus diagnosis on Friday.
According to US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Trump may still be at risk of infecting people around him, but White House spokesman Brian Morgenstern said precautions were being taken to protect people who interact with him.
The on-again, off-again stimulus talks rattled markets on Tuesday after Trump’s tweet saying he had ordered his representatives to stop negotiating with Congress until after the election next month.
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Hours later, the president appeared to change his position and tweeted that he would support sending US$1,200 cheques to eligible Americans.
If I am sent a Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200), they will go out to our great people IMMEDIATELY. I am ready to sign right now. Are you listening Nancy? @MarkMeadows @senatemajldr @kevinomccarthy @SpeakerPelosi @SenSchumer
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2020
Trump also tweeted late on Tuesday night that Congress should “IMMEDIATELY” approve multibillion-dollar relief packages for airlines and small businesses. “Have this money. I will sign now!” he wrote.
It is unclear if Trump’s latest stance is a calculated retreat after criticism from members of both parties or just a sudden change of mind.
Earlier in the day, he had said his administration would return to negotiations over further stimulus “immediately after I win” the election. He said the Senate should instead focus on confirming his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
In response, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had said he would comply, but he has not commented publicly on whether he will support Trump’s updated position on the economic stimulus.
The Democrats, under House leader Nancy Pelosi, have opposed a piecemeal approach to a stimulus plan, saying instead that it should be broader.
Among the provisions being considered are billions of dollars for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, vaccine distribution, and financial help for the US Postal Service ahead of election day on November 3, according to Bloomberg.
Millions of Americans have already cast their ballots, either by mail or through early voting.
After Trump’s tweet saying he was ending the stimulus talks on Tuesday, US stocks fell late in trading, with all three indices dropping more than 2 per cent.
But the markets recuperated on Wednesday. The S&P 500 closed up 58 points, or 1.74 per cent, and the Nasdaq and Dow Jones index jumped 1.9 per cent, rising 210 points and 530 points, respectively.
“Investors should anticipate a lot of spaghetti being thrown at the wall for the next few weeks, but we do not see a path for a bipartisan stimulus bill or stand-alone bailout for airlines becoming law,” said Henrietta Treyz, director of economic policy with Veda Partners, a trade advisory firm.
Throughout his tenure, Trump has used the performance of the stock market as a gauge of his administration’s success.
With less than four weeks remaining before the election, he is trailing his challenger, former vice-president Joe Biden, in many key states that he would need to win, according to polls.
Trump’s comments on the stimulus relief come as he receives treatment for Covid-19, and infections continue to spread through the federal government.
In Trump’s inner circle, senior adviser Stephen Miller was the latest of his close aides to test positive on Tuesday, bringing the number of known cases among those who had been in contact with the president or had attended White House or campaign events last week to 20.
Concern over the virus has also spread to the Pentagon. General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; General James McConville, the US Army chief of staff; and several other Defence Department leaders were quarantining after being exposed, a department spokesman said on Tuesday.
Trump returned to the White House on Monday night after three days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre.
On Wednesday, White House doctor Sean Conley announced that Trump had said “I feel great!” earlier in the morning.
He said that Trump has not had symptoms of the virus for more than 24 hours, has not had a fever for more than four days, and has not needed supplemental oxygen since he was first hospitalised on Friday.
Conley also said that tests performed on Trump on Monday showed detectable levels of SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies.
Additional reporting by Jodi Xu Klein
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This article Donald Trump returns to Oval Office; US stocks close higher on hint of stimulus cheques first appeared on South China Morning Post