President Donald Trump has ordered his negotiators to halt talks over a new stimulus package, after the two sides have struggled for months to reach a deal, a stunning move that puts an end to last-ditch efforts for a major economic relief package as millions are reeling from the coronavirus crisis.
"I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business," Trump wrote in a series of tweets Tuesday afternoon.
Trump's message stunned lawmakers -- especially since Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been trading proposals and negotiating for days in the hopes of narrowing their differences, though they were still far apart in their talks.
The decision to pull the plug on the talks is a major blow to Americans still struggling with the fallout from the once-in-a century pandemic and endangers an economic recovery that for months was driven by the initial $2.2 trillion stimulus passed by Congress in the spring. With that money largely spent and gone, economists have warned more support is imperative in the months ahead.
Trump weighed in shortly after a private conference call with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and Mnuchin, who was scheduled to speak later Tuesday afternoon with Pelosi.
The President's tweet may have come as a surprise to some top Republicans as well as Democrats.
On Trump call with GOP leaders, the President signaled he wanted a deal and didn't say he was going to pull the plug on the talks, according to a source familiar with the call.
Republicans were critical of Pelosi, arguing she was moving the goalposts and noted there were plenty of obstacles to get a deal. But the expectation after that call was that talks would continue.
Pelosi slammed the announcement from the President in a statement, saying, "Clearly, the White House is in complete disarray."
"Today, once again, President Trump showed his true colors: putting himself first at the expense of the country, with the full complicity of the GOP Members of Congress," Pelosi said, adding, "Walking away from coronavirus talks demonstrates that President Trump is unwilling to crush the virus."
Pelosi unloaded on the President over the decision during a private conference call with House Democrats on Tuesday, telling her caucus that Trump isn't telling the truth about the negotiations, arguing that Democrats have a scientific plan to crush the virus and that Republicans have a real contempt for science, a person on the call told CNN.
Pelosi warned that health care workers will lose their jobs and people will get hurt by Trump's decision, calling it a sad moment for the country, the person said.
The speaker addressed the news on the call by saying of Republicans, "This is who they are," a source told CNN.
Pelosi also questioned whether Trump taking a steroid was impacting his thinking, according to two people on the call. Trump was given the corticosteroid drug dexamethasone on Saturday after his oxygen level transiently dipped, White House physician Sean Conley said during a briefing on Sunday.
"Believe me, there are people who think that steroids have an impact on thinking," Pelosi told Democrats as she tried to explain her view of what the President was trying to do, a person on the call said. "So I just don't know."
One member texted CNN that Trump's tweet was "incredible," while another reacted by saying only, "wow."
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.